Five Ways to Revamp Your Waiting Room This Year

Article written by: SMITHA GOPAL 

You may not give your waiting room much thought, but your patients certainly do. Not only that, but they’re sharing their opinions with the world on social media. Really! A quick Twitter search for “doctors waiting room” reveals people complaining about long wait times, uncomfortable surroundings, and a lack of privacy, among other things. On Yelp, several patient reviews of medical practices note whether the waiting rooms are clean and offer Wi-Fi.

And on Instagram, a recent photo of a woman in a massage chair in the waiting room of her dentist’s office garnered over 1,000 likes and comments such as, “What a great thing to have in a waiting room! More businesses should have these!”; “That dentist is a genius”; “Every waiting room should have a chair like this!”

Here’s a look at some of the top things patients notice – and tweet about – in your waiting room, and what you can do to improve them.

1. Attention to design and décor

Most designers who work with health care clients agree that the days of waiting rooms filled with rows of generic, identical chairs are over, according to Healthcare Design magazine. Health care is becoming more consumer-driven and customer-service focused. And thanks to HGTV and design blogs, the general public is more design-savvy than ever. Consider this post on the popular interior design site, which features a photo of a chair in the waiting room of an ENT’s office and encourages readers to send in pictures of their doctors’ office décor.

2. A focus on comfort and convenience

There’s a shift towards waiting areas that are “more hospitality oriented, with residential-type furniture and places to plug in electronic devices,” architect Marc Margulies tells Healthcare Design. Interior designer Amy Mees says her clients are looking for “retail-inspired furniture arrangements.” “Everyone wants to have this Starbucks look and feel with a variety of table and seating options,” she tells the magazine. Click through this photo gallery to see what this looks like in real-life waiting rooms.

3. A place for every patient

Because patients have different needs while they wait—some may want to get work done or make a phone call in private, while parents may prefer a spot where their children can play—it’s a good idea to create a variety of spaces in your waiting room. A kid-friendly reading nook with beanbags on the floor could occupy one corner, with a worktable or countertop with outlets for those wishing to use laptops or iPads in another spot. If you have a TV on, consider muting it and putting on closed captions so it won’t disturb patients who prefer a quiet environment.

4. How technology is integrated

Free Wi-Fi is mostly expected these days, especially by younger generations. “Millennials are a crucial generation of customers for any business—including health care—to consider,” writes Micah Solomon in Forbes, discussing why the Cleveland Clinic is making changes to accommodate the 80 million millennials in the U.S. As the first generation to grow up with the Internet and smartphones as part of their everyday lives, this group has very different expectations of time, convenience, and their doctors’ offerings.

study last year found that one in five patients search for health-related information online in the waiting room of their doctor’s office before their appointment. And tablets with access to health care information are becoming more common in waiting rooms in an effort to appeal to tech-savvy consumers, reports Healthcare Design.

5. Unexpected amenities

On Yelp, one commenter praised the hot coffee and free snacks provided in the waiting room—of a car dealership. Waiting for an appointment at a hair salon, a customer might be offered a cup of tea or even a glass of wine. No, we’re not suggesting that you should offer patients cocktails. But health care providers can, and should, take a cue from other industries when it comes to customer service.

One of the biggest obstacles to improving the patient experience in health care is that providers compare themselves to each other and benchmark their customer service accordingly, writes Micah Solomon in Forbes. “And to do so is to set the bar too low.  … it’s time to benchmark health care customer service against the best in service-intensive industries, because that’s what your patients and their loved ones will do.”

And if that means putting a massage chair in your waiting room, it just might be worth it. As interior designer Erin Schmidt said in Healthcare Design, her clients are “recognizing that it’s worth it to spend money on something that makes everybody feel more welcome and comfortable.”

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