A patient’s first impression of your practice starts long before they enter the exam room. The waiting room is an important part of the overall patient experience and can make or break how patients feel about your practice.
According to Magazine Subscriptions PTP, many waiting rooms are functional but lack character. Consider changing the ambiance with these simple tips:
1. Offer a variety of seating options
If you’ve ever been to a doctor or medical practice, you’ve likely experienced their waiting room. Rows of uncomfortable chairs, six-month-old magazines, and a television blaring in the corner may not be enough to keep patients happy. However, a well-designed physician waiting room can set the tone for a positive patient experience and make the wait seem shorter.
It is best to offer a variety of seating options so that all patients can find a comfortable seat. Modular seating is a great option because it can be configured to fit different offices and accommodate a wide range of patient’s needs. It’s also a good idea to include softer seating for children and older patients, as this type of seating is more comfortable than rigid chairs.
In addition to offering a variety of seating options, it is important to provide an atmosphere that is calming and relaxing. One way to do this is by using soothing music and lighting. Additionally, using artwork that provides an appealing look and feel is a good idea. For example, artwork featuring a natural scene can help improve patients’ moods and make the room seem more inviting.
Providing a space where patients can store their belongings is also important. For example, a physician’s office can install hooks in the waiting area for patients to hang their coats and umbrellas. This will help to create a sense of security for patients and reduce the risk of them tripping over misplaced items. It is also a good idea to provide a place where patients can charge their electronic devices, as this will allow them to stay productive during the wait.
2. Give patients a chance to be productive
Imagine this: a new patient arrives at your clinic, and they’re sitting in a thinly padded chair next to an elderly person watching videos on their phone at full volume. If you can keep them busy and entertained while they wait, they’ll have a much better perception of their waiting experience, even if their appointment is delayed by several minutes.
If you have a budget for it, consider upgrading your waiting room to include more comfortable seating and a variety of entertainment options. Instead of a few outdated magazines, you could provide tablets with news apps, social media, and healthcare information uploaded. You can also consolidate pharmaceutical and medical pamphlets into a single binder for easy access.
Providing coffee and tea is another simple way to make patients feel valued while they’re in your waiting room. You can also offer some small snacks, such as granola bars and yogurt, to make the wait seem shorter.
You might also want to add some soft background music or calming aromas to your waiting room and soothing lighting. Studies show that patients tend to perceive their wait time as shorter when they’re doing something relaxing or productive, so this is a great way to make your office feel more welcoming to your patients.
If your practice can afford it, you might consider hiring a dedicated waiting room liaison to keep in touch with patients while they wait. This person can offer additional information about their visit and may be able to help them navigate follow-up appointments. This is a great option for physical therapy offices, psychologists, and other practices that see people experiencing higher levels of stress.
3. Keep the room clean and tidy
When patients walk out of your office, they’re not only leaving with a positive experience of their doctor’s visit – they also leave with an evaluation of the cleanliness and quality of your waiting room. Satisfied patients are much more likely to return, recommend you to friends, and leave positive reviews.
A messy waiting room conveys a message that your practice is disorganized, which will make your patients doubt your sanitary standards. For example, a cluttered table with old magazines and papers can look like a breeding ground for germs. Also, a television that’s constantly tuned to a news channel can be stressful for patients who may already be anxious. Instead, choose a relaxing option, such as instrumental pop music or a nature channel, to play in your waiting room.
Lighting is another key factor that can affect patient satisfaction. Fluorescent lights can be harsh and uncomfortable, so consider a soft LED alternative. Also, natural light is a great way to improve patients’ moods and reinforce their circadian rhythms. Finally, art and decorations in the waiting area can greatly impact how your patients feel. For example, one study found that patients overwhelmingly prefer artwork depicting nature scenes over abstract art.
Keeping your medical office waiting room clean and tidy will help your patients feel relaxed and at ease. After all, going to the doctor isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun day out, and sitting nervously in a crowded waiting room doesn’t make the situation any less stressful. With a little effort, you can transform your waiting room into a clean, comfortable oasis that will keep your patients happy and satisfied.
4. Let patients know how long they’ll be waiting
Your patients’ experience begins well before they step into your exam room. That’s why keeping waiting areas calm, inviting, and comfortable is important. Waiting rooms are one of the most important touchpoints in patient satisfaction, but many practices overlook this area. Fortunately, small improvements can make a big difference.
Imagine a new patient who checks into your office and finds themselves in a cold, hard plastic chair. They’re surrounded by people watching videos on their cell phones at full volume. This kind of experience can cause stress, anxiety, and frustration. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario.
The good news is that you can prevent this by letting patients know how long they’ll be waiting when they check-in. A friendly staff member can provide them with an estimate before they’re seated, and it’s helpful to update this information if the wait time changes. Additionally, it’s a good idea to tell patients what the reason is for an extended wait, such as a surgery cancellation or a medical emergency.
Having something to do can also make the wait feel shorter. Providing tables for work or reading and free Wi-Fi and charging stations can make the experience more bearable. In addition, art and plants can help the environment look more welcoming, while soothing music like instrumental pop or classical music can reduce stress levels.
Some practices have used a “take a number” system to track wait times and allow for flexible reservations. This may still be a useful option, but it can create feelings of pressure and insecurity. Instead of using this method, try featuring wait-time or queue order displays in multiple locations to allow patients to choose where they want to sit.
5. Provide entertainment
Providing entertainment in a waiting room can help to keep patients happy by keeping them entertained. It can also alleviate stress and make the wait seem shorter. For example, offering a TV or other forms of video entertainment can provide distractions for patients. You can even play music in your waiting rooms but be careful not to select music that is too somber or has inappropriate lyrics. Alternatively, you could display current queue orders on digital signage that allows patients to walk around the practice and see where they are in the waiting room order.
Whether watching a video on their mobile phone or reading a book, having something to do can keep patients busy and distracted, improving their perception of the waiting time. It is important to remember that people tend to overestimate how long they spend in a waiting room. That’s why it is so important to offer realistic estimates. According to a study by Disney, giving customers a clear estimate of how long they are expected to wait reduces frustration and discontent by as much as 35 percent.
While reducing wait times is the best way to keep patients happy, it’s not always possible. Even if you have a well-organized practice, delays can happen. However, that doesn’t mean patients have to sit in sterile, uncomfortable chairs with bad televisions blaring national news all day!
Instead, give them a more comfortable seating option and decorate the space. Display artwork and add little knick-knacks (in moderation) to create an environment that looks and feels homey. In addition, introducing natural lighting can reduce stress levels. And don’t forget to offer free Wi-Fi and charging stations so that patients can use their own devices for entertainment.