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Few things are more frustrating for patients than spending lots of time in a waiting room. And while there are certain things you can do to reduce the amount of time an individual spends sitting in a reception area, there’s always going to be a wait. The key is to make sure the time they spend in the waiting room isn’t wasted.
Why Waiting Rooms Matter
The waiting room might be an afterthought in your mind, but it’s actually one of the most important elements. It’s the first thing that patients see when they come in and will often set their impression of the visit. If the waiting room is cramped and messy, they’re going to go into their appointment agitated. On the other hand, a spacious and comfortable waiting room will put your patients’ minds at ease and lead to a better overall experience.
It’s no secret that patients are spending more and more time in waiting rooms across America. Doctors are busier, facilities are more crowded, and scheduling has to be tighter. Having said that, there’s a direct correlation between wait time and patient satisfaction. The first priority should be to reduce wait time. If that’s not possible, then the wait time experience must be enhanced.
6 Tips for Enhancing the Waiting Room Experience
Every practice has its own unique feel, but you can’t afford to skimp on your waiting room experience. Here are some helpful tips for turning your waiting room into a strength of your practice.
1. Introduce Unique Design Elements
The visual appearance of your waiting room says a lot about your practice. Is it boring and dated, or exciting and fresh? One way to enhance your waiting room experience is to introduce unique design elements that add character to the space.
Wall art is of particular importance. We’ve all been in those waiting rooms with low-quality prints of cliché artwork. You can make a statement by going with handmade oil paintings instead. Think it’s outside of your price range? Consider oil painting reproductions, which allow you to build a quality art collection at a fraction of the price.
2. Keep it Clean
“The atmosphere is the doctor. A sloppy doctor will have a sloppy atmosphere,” says Dr. Arnold Melnick, an expert in medical communication. “In a doctor’s office, people expect cleanliness, and they expect the reception area to be neat. And neat means that somebody on the staff should check the waiting room every hour or two to make sure that magazines aren’t strewn around, that dirty coffee cups and used tissues aren’t left on tables, and that wastebaskets are emptied.”
It’s easy to forget about cleanliness until the end of the day, but this is a critically important factor in maintaining a positive waiting room experience. Stay on top of it and you’ll notice a much more positive vibe from everyone, including the doctors and staff.
3. Consider Seating Arrangement
“Being forced to sit next to someone you don’t know in a hard chair with your back against the wall and bad TV blaring makes patients feel like they’re being held hostage,” says Rosalyn Cama, president of a Connecticut-based healthcare design firm. In other words, you need to think carefully about seating arrangements when designing the waiting room.
Ideally, you should provide some different options. Depending on the amount of space you have, you may choose to incorporate a U-shaped area, single chairs with end tables, or a long row of chairs against a wall. As long as patients have options, they’ll be fine.
4. Lighting Matters
There’s one small, yet important detail that a lot of practices forget when designing their waiting rooms: lighting. If your waiting room has fluorescent lighting, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. This harsh, white, artificial light gives the waiting room a very industrial feel and leaves patients on edge. Instead, you should opt for soft light.
Soft, bright lights have a very “homey” feel that should make your practice more comfortable and inviting. It might even be a good idea to turn off overhead lighting and integrate table and floor lamps for a better vibe.
5. Give Patients Something to Do
Most patients will pull out their phones and play a game, text friends, or browse social media while waiting for their name to be called, but you can’t count on this. It’s important that you give your patients something to occupy their time while waiting. This could include magazines and books, TVs, or even some simple little board games for family members who will be waiting for longer periods of time. The more people are engaged in an activity, the less they’ll think about their wait.
6. Hire Someone to Manage the Waiting Room
The final suggestion is to hire someone to manage the waiting room. This receptionist or intake specialist should work hard to know and remember patient names and accommodate any special needs people have while waiting.
Make Your Patients Feel Comfortable
Patients come to see the doctor. They don’t want to spend a lot of time in the waiting room, but they recognize that this is sometimes part of the process. Your goal should be to make this a positive experience. Are there areas where you recognize a need for improvement? Tackle them first and go from there.