You just checked in to your doctor’s office. You sit down on a cold, hard plastic chair. You’re stressed and a little nervous, scenarios of all the things that could be wrong play out in your head.
And … you wait.
Is this the type of experience you want to put your patients through? Creating a better waiting room experience can calm patients’ fears before they ever step into the exam room.
Research shows that well-designed waiting rooms change how patients feel about their care experience. They also streamline the receiving process, allowing you to accommodate more patients. Here are seven ways you can improve the waiting room experience at your hospital or practice.
1. Comfortable Seating
When someone visits a doctor, the last thing they want is to sit in a cramped, uncomfortable chair. Modular seating systems can be adapted for different offices and customized by the patients. Try rearranging your furniture so patients can sit where it’s most comfortable for them. For example, separate quiet spaces for professionals or play areas for children.
2. De-Stress Your Space
Keep your waiting room clean and tidy throughout the day. Patients will feel more at ease and will know their providers care about their experience. Try eliminating a TV so patients are not locked into watching one thing. If you have magazines out, make sure they are recent issues, not out of date.
3. Make Waiting Active
Providing people with something to do will keep their minds less focused on the clock and help the wait seem shorter. Consider desks or work tables with charging stations, or supply iPads with digital magazines, newspapers and games.
4. Manageable Queues
If you’ve ever needed walk-in care (or visited the deli counter) you’re probably familiar with the “take a number” system. Though it might be an effective way to get people to wait their turn, it makes people feel they can’t walk away from the area without the risk of missing their slot. That’s stressful. Instead, feature wait-time or queue order displays in multiple areas to give patients more freedom.
5. Offer Small Luxuries
Sometimes it’s the little things that can give patients a better vibe about your office. Try displaying complimentary coffee, drinks and (healthy) snacks.
6. Healthy Food
Have you ever thought about how counterintuitive it is that the only food available at hospitals or doctor offices is vending machine snacks like chips, candy and soda? Shouldn’t doctors be encouraging people to eat healthy? Instead try a vending machine that has water, healthy snacks or fruit to promote healthy habits.
7. Welcoming Signage
Make your office feel warmer and more welcoming with custom boards. Post pictures of the doctors, helpful information or schedules of events held at your hospital or practice. Make a community connection by having a board specifically for neighborhood events and activities, or display a local artist’s work instead of cheesy stock photos.
A waiting room experience can make or break how consumers feel about your practice. After all, it’s the first interaction a new patient will have with your organization. These small changes can help your patients feel more comfortable and at ease, giving them an overall more positive experience.
About the Author | Katie Sorce
Katie Sorce is a marketing assistant for Smith & Jones. She contributes to research and strategy projects, manages social media and digital marketing accounts, and assists with content creation, account management, finance and operations.
Smith & Jones is where health care brands come to get better. We help our clients create meaningful and desirable health care brands, align their internal teams, engage new and existing patients and drive downstream revenue.