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Healthcare Responds to COVID-19 with Resilience
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by CATHY RICHTER

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Immediate impacts of coronavirus on the American healthcare system

The pressure on every healthcare system in the wake of COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. While some may be calling what we’re experiencing “the new normal,” what we’re seeing from the lens of experience design is an immediate industrywide reaction, followed by what we believe will be a revolution in the healthcare industry. Up until coronavirus, legacy institutions like healthcare organizations have taken a more deliberative pace in planning for change in their mode and model of delivery. Yet a global pandemic is testing these caregiving and health systems as never before, resulting in healthcare institutions more proactively creating change. 

Taking the pulse of the industry, here is our current snapshot of how healthcare is responding and adapting to the upheaval a global pandemic brings.

The Reaction

Understanding the impacts on their care delivery in the wake of COVID-19, healthcare organizations began to immediately plan for how to scale their organizations to deal with a large influx of patients all at once. The need to identify and categorize medical priorities and plan for how to meet them is the top priority for healthcare providers, including some of our healthcare clients quickly readying capacity in both drive up testing and healthcare delivery and structures. 

From creating contingency overflow capacity in the form of field hospitals and container clinics to creating and designing drive-up testing, immediacy has been the prevailing and pressing objective. What we’re witnessing is rapid response to the need for physical structures to supplement and sometimes supplant a clinic.

For example, Boldt and HGA have partnered to provide a kit-of-parts and pop-up clinic solution with significant modularity and scalability. These container clinics can be placed either on-site at a healthcare facility or off-site, as medical needs dictate. While the on-the-ground situation is highly variable in different parts of the country, developing a systems approach that is flexible, responsive and easily replicable will help provide healthcare organizations with structural resources necessary to provide care.

Healthcare Responds to COVID-19 With Resilience

Visual Communications

Key to making these wholly new and novel healthcare spaces function well is a focus on visual communications. Clear communications and navigation have always been foundational within healthcare settings. When not strategically developed and deployed, a lack of signage or confusing messaging can increase patient anxiety within the healthcare experience. In drive-up testing, healthcare providers are smart to understand that apprehension is even more amplified in this new kind of setting and solve for that patient reality with a nuanced and layered communications strategy.  

While communication is informational, like directing people where to go and to stay inside their vehicles, other aspects of signage are more inspirational, communicating brand values about unity and community during a fraught time. While effective in regions like Washington state, drive-up testing has been deployed as a relevant response to a public health best practice – separation – to keep healthy and sick people apart and reduce potential spread. 

With pop-up clinics, the visual communication needs are also part of a larger awareness strategy, linking the healthcare brand to quick, responsive action taken in the wake of the virus outbreak. This aligns the brand with a perceived presence as a proactive provider in the local community. On-site, this branded communication reaffirms the healthcare organization as a committed partner to the health and well-being of the local area. While these healthcare spaces are not retail clinics, fostering community goodwill is an important element of a healthcare brand’s communication strategy. 

On-site, communication to the staff and caregivers in these spaces is essential. The visual focus here is focused on functionality and wayfinding within a new healthcare space that no one has ever worked in before. Developing organizational processes and procedures within a physical space will define its effectiveness. In order for these improvised emergency and contingency systems to function well, communication needs to be thoughtfully embedded into their overall design. 

Intentional and Aspirational

Just because these clinics were developed and deployed quickly doesn’t mean that design exists solely for strictly utilitarian purposes. Given that patients will be housed inside these pod clinics without windows, televisions or any other screens, with some of them staying inside them for days or weeks, care and concern must be given to implementing some forms of visual variety during their illness and recovery. Giving patients a visual pause and visual distraction including color and texture is a welcome reminder of what makes us human. 

For staff working long hours in grueling conditions, visual communication should focus on acknowledging that caregivers are doing something unprecedented and extraordinary, inspiring them to keep going for the benefit of us all. Humanity is the reason these systems exist in the first place. Let’s not forget to express our shared humanity inside of them. 

In our next Perspective article on healthcare’s response during this crisis, we will take a look at ways that the coronavirus pandemic is pushing the healthcare industry to effect and embrace change as never before and what we think will be some long-term implications for the patient journey in the future. If you’d like to speak with one of our experience design, visual communications or healthcare industry experts, please reach out to us via our social channels or email us at info@adrenalineagency.com.


Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.


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