Friday, October 07, 2022

The Psychology Of Hospital Parking

I once walked past the old front entrance to Greenlane Hospital in Auckland and looked through the tall wire construction fences, warning signage and various scattered earthmoving equipment and saw an elderly gentleman scrambling halfway up a 1.5 metre step to the old front entrance, long excavated out to make way for a brand new canopy and entrance way. He wasn’t winning the battle to climb the obstacle into the hospital and kept falling back onto the wet clay below. I have no idea how he even got close to the entrance as it was in the middle of a large construction zone, but in the spirit of Robert the Bruce’s spider, he tried and tried again until he finally inadvertently caught someone’s attention and was escorted out and around to the temporary entrance.

Hospital parking has a psychology of its own. Because of the nature of the clients, changes take a very long time to ‘bed in’. The gentleman in the story had been coming to Greenlane Hospital to see his sick wife for many months and had just finished a lengthy period of attendance for his own ailments. He had come to the same entrance in all of that time, then someone put up a barrier, which proved not to be insurmountable. Over the years of working in and around hospitals and dealing with their parking issues, the design of the front entrance to the hospital and its adjacent car park are paramount to delivering a patient or visitor to the hospital in a state of mind that makes them ready to be treated. There is a lack of understanding around how important car parking is to the healthcare process.
Parking in a hospital is simply the first and last ‘touch point’ to having a patient presented to the doctor in a state ready for treatment. When I say this, I mean that car parking in a hospital is not just an add-on where you park a few cars on the spare bit of grass out the back when the weather is inclement on a Wednesday morning. It is much more than that. I once worked with a major airport company who knew that the first and last part of the passengers journey with them, was in and out of the car park. Transposing this notion over to a hospital environment will only result in a better presentation of patients for the healthcare industry.

So how do we generally better present the patients to our healthcare professionals? Well the list is long, but starting with how a patient approaches a hospital in the first place will help to understand what is going on in their minds. The patient is obviously anxious, apprehensive, or fearful of what news or treatment they may receive. The first priority is to find the right building or entrance to enter. They may circulate in their vehicle while they determine that. They may not see navigation signage or warnings, while they settle their minds on the immediate destination how much does it cost to install bollards.

Secondly, they then start to look for a car park close to that destination and failing that they will park anywhere close, often illegally, in staff parks or they might sit in the car and await the arrival of the inevitable enforcement officer, before being prompted to move. The key point to notice is that this provides some idea of how you will need to set out your way-finding signage, websites or flyers, so that an intending visitor will have an idea of where to go and be prepared for the visit without getting too stressed before attending their clinician. Parking starts way back in the process.

The general hierarchy of parking is in order of preference, on street, open air, above ground and lastly below ground. Clearly, ease of access, security and spatial awareness are priorities and a person will park, in the absence of guidance, generally in that order. Once in a car park, the building must be well lit, wide and open, with great informational and navigation signage and even with ambassadors or staff around to offer assistance. This service offer will ease the minds of the visitors and will keep stress levels down.

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