What Visual Communication Means in Healthcare

What our eyes can see has a profound effect on the way we think, act and feel.  Everything that we see sends a message to us.  Spotting a logo of our favorite fast-food chain makes us think of food. It can even make our stomach churn.  We say that a fine dining restaurant with a cozy ambiance exudes elegance.

Much of the reason we can comment on such is that what we see is a perfect combination of colors, style, and design, even before we start experiencing their service. Even in social media and other internet sites, those that offer the most tantalizing image get the most views. The phrase, "a picture says a thousand words," however cliché-sounding is very meaningful. And this is the reason why advertising in the US alone in 2015 cost more than $180 billion! 

Just how important is visual communication? How does it influence us in the healthcare sector?

The scientific and statistical evidence of the power of visual communication abound. Ninety-three percent of the way we communicate with other people is done non-verbally. The human brain can decipher the message of a picture 60,000 faster than plainly reading a text. Between a plain text and a text with a colored visual, there is 80% more chance of the text with a colored visual to be read. Compared to hearing information (with only 10% retention), 65% of information seen or read with a visual will be retained even after three days. (source

In healthcare, visual communication enhances the patient experience.

Traditionally, visual communication in healthcare is limited to static medium. However, with the advent of technological advances and internet use, information is relayed in a more interactive and customized way, enabling more relevant content to be displayed.

To illustrate this change further, we take several examples below:

  • Traditionally, we see signage that points to a certain location, and we rely on arrows on the hallways to get to our desired destination. Nowadays, way-finding becomes digital, providing a digital map and a route that will help orientate oneself with the place and navigate large facilities. Digital screens in hallways can also be a medium for information campaigns and advertising agenda. There is no need to stop a running nurse just to ask for directions.
  • There is a stronger shift from print media to digital content that has many illustrations and videos. Imagine having to tell about a procedure, a colonoscopy for example, to a client without any medical background. A print media can deliver information, but it can be very limiting because even after a face-to-face consult with a physician or nurse, patients will have questions to ask. A digital medium can be helpful at this point because it can provide more information that will match a patient's learning need. For example, a video of colonoscopy is played to offer information on different aspects of care, post-procedure expectations and other details that can be referred to anytime with just a click.
  • Technology has enabled simultaneous supervision of patients through live cameras. What a nurse sees in these live feeds communicates to her what the client's status is while well in their rooms.
  • Infographics are visual representations of data. It has gained popularity by 800% in the recent years. Infographics can break information down into pieces, and it can depict relevant details through graphs and illustrations with just one look. Understanding a text with an image is processed better than reading about the details in plain text because it can make the ‘big picture' be seen immediately. Patients benefit from infographics because they can teach or provide information about a particular condition that is interesting to them.  

Visual communication in healthcare does not only impact patients but employees as well.  

  • Innovations in visual communication can improve team collaboration.

Reaching out to a co-worker can be a pain at times, but because video conferencing is now possible, in comparison with the traditional pager or text messaging where messages may become lost, delayed or ignored, there is a more personal touch and sense of urgency to collaboration. Furthermore, with more options and strategies for presentations through large digital displays, each member can quickly convey pertinent data to other team members, making communication, clearer, more interactive and efficient.

  • Visual communication can also be a strong support in driving employee engagement.

Employee engagement has been said to be an important aspect of organizational success. Employees are considered the lifeline of an institution. Keeping them motivated and happy at work makes them pro-active in working towards goals. It is the reason why visual communication, through the help of technology, has been utilized to communicate to employees how well they perform, and how important they are to the institution. Traditionally, performance reviews are conducted through pen and paper assessments as well as interviews. Nowadays, innovations in technology have made it possible for employees to see their progress in everyday tasks through intranet platforms that enable work-tracking. Leaders can see their team's progress in real-time. Gamification that combines visual stimulation with rewards also contributes to employees' sense of accomplishment on a day-to-day basis, and not just annually after a traditional performance review.

Visual communication is asserting its power in healthcare, and it will continue to do so in the coming years. ManageUp is keeping up with this trend, with a focus on visual communication, real-time closed-loop communication, and a reward system that drives employee engagement.




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