A New Image For Healthcare
In a recent New York Times article, “What Would You Change About the Doctor’s Office,” by Jancee Dunn, readers offered their thoughts on what could bring an improved patient experience. Among their comments was the recollection of a person who had accompanied a friend to radiation treatment at a Philadelphia hospital. She was struck by the dismal grey interior and proposed a better approach. “Physicians’ offices and treatment centers,” she said, “can create a comforting, positive environment … to help take the patients’ minds away from the treatment they are about to experience.”
Truth be told, most of us don’t want to find ourselves in a hospital or medical care facility. They can be places of stress, confusion, grief; but also places of hope and relief. While hospitals have a reputation for being places with white floors, walls of institutional hues, and the glow of fluorescent lights (see figure 1), that reputation may be changing (see figure 2). With the help of décor and branding elements printed using wide-format inkjet technology, and an approach that treats the soul as well as the body, hospitals are becoming just a bit less daunting.
Fabrics Other Than Gauze
Having witnessed the rapid and profound adoption of digitally printed fabrics for branding and decorative applications, Michael Sanders, president at Digital Bias Consulting says, “You see [printed] stuff all over hospitals.” While he says décor elements can be used, for instance, in a children’s ward to project a bright, playful, happier place, branding is also ubiquitous. “Hospitals want to place their messages,” he says. The fabric applications he sees the most in hospital or healthcare settings are printed privacy curtains and the use of silicone edge graphics (SEG).
The privacy curtains — common elements in most hospital rooms — can be printed to feature cool, calming colors, brand colors, or peaceful images. For these elements, Sanders says the fabrics must include an antimicrobial coating, and must be able to stand up to the rigors of frequent commercial laundering. Because of this, these elements are often printed on polyester using dye-sublimation.
Sanders says hospitals are increasingly taking advantage of SEG, which can be used for marketing, brand awareness or reinforcement, or for calming, decorative displays. The ease of changing SEG allows hospitals to change messaging more frequently. He says he is seeing the use of both front lit and backlit SEG frames.
Asked whether hospitals and healthcare facilities are a growth area for the wide-format segment, Sanders says “you’re seeing more and more” graphics in these spaces. Like with serving retail and hospitality verticals, the project specifier could be a marketer, but could also be an interior designer or contractors. Graphics producers accustomed to serving these other spaces in a big way are better positioned to similarly serve hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Other Materials and Considerations
For wall graphics, such a murals or decorative wall coverings, says Amanda Smith, marketing communications manager, graphic and signage solutions, at Mactac, a Lintec Company, the use of an anti-microbial overlaminate helps build in resistance to contaminants and resists microbial growth. “It gives and extra layer of confidence,” she says, “between cleanings, which may happen daily.” A textured anti-microbial laminate is popular for use with floor graphics and tabletops.
Smith says that while Mactac had the product available before the COVID pandemic, sales of the product took off, as did a wide variety of sanitizing sprays. The use of anti-microbial laminates, she says, has also become more common outside of hospital spaces, for instance in hotels and restaurants — where it minimizes microbial presence and adds value to the printed application. The “value add” can be increased by, for instance, adding a message into the printed design stating that the surface is resistant to microbial growth.
In another recent development that affects materials choices in hospital (and hotel) settings, Smith says the Joint Commission, which is a leading accreditation and regulating body in healthcare, changed its fire rating for materials used on the inside and outside of elevators. She says Mactac has a product within it “Roodle” line that meets the new standards. It should be noted that the knowledge of such standards is an example of what differentiates those companies that strongly serve certain vertical markets. Expertise has value.
Creating a More Welcoming Space
In a project specifically designed to enhance mood and give a greater sense of privacy, Binick Digital Imaging (Miami, Florida) printed, cut and installed graphics on more than 100 glass doors across four floors of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, located in Hollywood, Florida. Mirroring decorative wall graphics that evoke a hopeful, rising Florida sun, or abstract, calming bubbles amid an ocean-like blue, the installed window graphics give a pop of color to corridors and rooms that might otherwise seem sterile and clinical (which, ironically, they are).
Nick Castillo, owner and president of Binick Digital Imaging, says his company’s commitment to sustainability and human health contributed to the decision to produce the graphics on its HP latex-based printers. With the technology’s instant drying, he says, the graphics were able to be printed and installed in just two days. The application versatility of that ink has enabled the company, which started in vehicle graphics, to expand strongly into markets including retail, corporate branding, events – as well as the hospital and healthcare space.
Castillo says that while the job at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital was originally for the window graphics mentioned earlier, the company was able to gain additional work when they were asked to produce and install contour-cut, frosted vinyl privacy graphics on office windows.
All the work done was installed by Binick Imaging’s installation team. Castillo says he has four installers on staff, but that a team of two worked on the hospital installation work. Of his installation team, he says, “They’re trained to work very quickly regardless of the location – they really know how to tackle it.” One reality that facilitated quick installation was that those floors of the hospital were under renovation and were not occupied by patients at the time. Nevertheless, the Binick installation team was required to use service elevators, and wear medical masks and gloves, “just to be on the safe side, because it’s a children’s hospital.”
As an opportunity, and a future direction for Binick Imaging to develop, Castillo sees promise in producing graphics for the hospital/healthcare vertical. “I think it’s a great industry,” he says. “Medical is one of the top areas to go after.”
The In-Plant Factor
Perhaps one way to gain a view of the hospital/healthcare vertical market is to understand the work done by a healthcare-based in-plant graphics shop: They don’t serve the vertical — they are the vertical. Larry Mills, manager of printing services at Monument Health, a regional health system primarily focused on western South Dakota, says his in-plant shop serves many of the wide-format needs of the company’s 54 locations, which include five hospitals. The shop uses its two Roland wide-format printers to produce retractable banners, contour-cut decals for labeling equipment, floor, wall, window, and vehicle graphics.
Mills says most of the shop’s wide-format work is either informational or brand-focused. He says wall graphics have been used to add additional elements of corporate identity to, say, conference rooms, helping to spruce them up when budgets do now allow for full decorative renovation.
For jobs larger in scale and scope than the Monument Health shop can handle, Mills says he contracts with a local sign shop to handle, for example, rigid signage and a 50-foot-long banner hung on the outside of a building. Small installation jobs, such as the placement of directional floor graphics, are often done by plant operations employees at the company’s various facilities.
As an in-house service for Monument Health, Mills sees his shop doing more wide-format work, not less.
How is Hospital installation Different?
Like many of the graphics projects produced for hotels, retail, and other settings, installation if often an essential, final step. And while the act of installing a large SEG or applying large adhesive wall murals requires the same skills, hospitals and healthcare facilities can be rather different places to do the work.
Kenneth Burns, owner of Axis Graphic Installations, says his company has done hospital installation “in the dozens,” and that the focus has been on both hard signage and pressure-sensitive vinyl. He says he has been “offered a lot of wallpaper jobs” for hospital settings — an installation service his company does not provide. For these hospital/healthcare jobs, the “client” may be a graphics shop, ad agency, marketer, or general contractor.
Burns says his company has done less work in hospitals since COVID. During the pandemic, he gave his installation teams the ability to turn down that kind of work. About installing during the height of the pandemic, he says, “It was a little bit stressful being in an environment where everybody was pretty much locked down. “We had an install at a testing facility … in the midst of COVID that spooked me something awful.”
As a vertical market so serve, Burns says he sees the hospital medical space as a growth area, and as an industry that stays strong even through recessions and pandemics.