When it comes to physician waiting rooms,
it used to be enough to offer rows of uncomfortable chairs, six-month-old magazines and a television blaring in the corner.
But with today’s average wait time at 21 minutes and the public’s increasing frustration with the healthcare system, a well-designed physician or medical practice waiting room can make all the difference in how your patients perceive you and their patient care experience.
Below is a list of seven essential elements for an effective patient waiting room. Consider implementing some – or all – of these to help set a positive tone for office visits, reduce patient stress and even decrease the perceived wait time.
#1: Offer Variety in Space
Depending on the age and socioeconomic background of your patients, offer a variety of areas in your waiting room to accommodate different needs.
- Build in an area for professionals to work on their laptops and include convenient electrical plugs and of course, free wi-fi
- Offer a separate kid-friendly area for parents and small children.
- For other guests, offer an area with recent magazines, health information pertinent to your specialty and a television (on low volume) featuring a non-controversial documentary or program with general appeal.
- Create a seating plan that faces patients away from each other. Some people prefer privacy as opposed to facing a row of other patients.
#2: Use Light Strategically
Proper use of lighting can make your patients feel more comfortable and at ease.
Rather than have your waiting room lit with harsh fluorescent light like an office, consider these ideas:
- Provide a variety of lighting options including overhead, lamps and decorative lights to create a friendly ambience and to make it easy for your patients to read, watch television or rest.
- If possible, bring in some natural light with outdoor views. This makes the room seem larger since it connects with the outdoors. Plus it feels less clinical and more calming.
#3: Upgrade Furnishings
Although matching chairs may be more economical and utilitarian, patients will be more comfortable waiting in an area that’s more like home and less like a doctor’s office. Consider these things:
- Sit in the furniture before you purchase it and make sure it’s comfortable.
- Tie the furnishings into your waiting room color scheme and consider mixing furnishings so that patients can choose what type of seating makes them most comfortable.
- Consider purchasing a variety of furniture including: sofas, wingback chairs, stools and tables such as end tables and coffee tables.
#4: Get Technologically Updated
Free wi-fi and an abundance of electrical plugs or even charging stations are considered standard these days. A new trend is offering tablets with access to health information and providing self check-in kiosks allowing patients to update personal information and even answer health history questions.
#5: Add Sound
If you’ve ever sat in a silent waiting room, you know how tension-filled and nerve wracking that can be. Adding an element of sound – whether overhead music, or the room noise of a television, not only makes the room more homelike but allow for more private conservation between patients and their family members. Some other tips:
- Television: One report says that only 41 percent of those in a waiting room watch television. Higher percentages read or use their mobile phone. For those not watching the television, be sure to keep the volume at a discreet level and provide seating away from the television.
- Overhead music: When choosing overhead music, be sure to match the format to your client demographic and the tone of your practice. And try to use a private service such as On Hold Music so that you skip the advertisements.
- Another way to promote calm and serenity in your waiting room is through the use of water features. Waterfalls, water walls, fountains and aquariums can add visual appeal to a space and add the calm, soothing sound of running water.
#6: Display Artwork
Displaying art on your walls will make your waiting room more home-like and less clinical. Choose art that complements your color scheme, or perhaps photographs of local landmarks or soothing nature scenes.
#7: Use Scent
Scenting your waiting room may be one of the most effective tools you can use. A little scent can go a long way in making your patients less stressed and more comfortable.
Scent has been scientifically proven to connect with the memory center of the brain (the limbic system), and recall good memories associated with these scents.
One Florida hospital imaging center uses a vanilla scent to help curb claustrophobia and tension, which has led to a decrease in the number of people who need sedation and a 50% drop in cancellations.
Thousands of scents and scent combinations are available to you through essential oils. New state-of-the-art scent distribution systems disperse fragrances evenly over large spaces in places like dental offices, hospitals and medical practices.
These cold-infusion scent distribution systems atomize essential oils, convert them into molecules and disperse them throughout the environment – not just in one small area of the office.
Using scent in your waiting room can help reduce anxiety in your patients and connect them to pleasant memories that keep them calm both before and during the appointment.
You Want Your Patients to Enjoy The Wait
Think of your waiting room as part of the overall patient care experience. From the moment they enter to time they leave, you want your patients to feel good about choosing you as their healthcare provider.
Incorporating these seven essential elements can instill confidence in you as their physician, help them relax, and encourage them to look forward to their next visit.
And if you get your waiting room right, they may even enjoy the wait.