Physician Waiting Rooms: Your first impression

March 20th, 2013

by Shannon Quinn

What does your waiting room say about your practice? There are many things to consider when creating a welcoming waiting room that is pleasing to patients.

Televisions

Some feel that having a television in the waiting room is a good way to entertain patients while they wait, but this might not be the case. A loud television can be annoying and make it difficult for patients with auditory problems to hear their names called. A television may give the impression that there will be a long wait and can be an indicator of how much time has passed. It can also be distracting to your front desk staff, who may find their attention inadvertently drawn to what’s on TV rather than the needs of the patient.

If you do have a TV in your waiting room, be sure to keep it at a reasonable volume and tuned to something inoffensive, or better yet, a channel that provides informative health content. Note that bringing in purchased videos from home to show in your waiting room may be a copyright infringement.

Seating

Seating should be covered with a material that can be easily cleaned, and should be cleaned often. Take a look at your waiting room during the busiest time of the day: is there sufficient seating for everyone?  Consider seating that will afford patient privacy, such as a few seats that aren’t too close together. Be thoughtful of patient size and provide a few seats that will accommodate larger people, such as seats without arms. If possible, seating should be arranged far from the front desk to ensure greater privacy for patients while they check in. Be sure that wheelchairs can pass through the waiting room without being obstructed by furniture.

Lighting

Lighting should be bright enough for patients to complete their paperwork or read without difficulty. Avoid harsh lighting, which may cause discomfort to patients with migraines or photophobia.

Signage

Make sure the wording on your signs is concise, not overwhelming. Avoid cluttering the front desk with printed paper signs. Instead, consider using professional signage. Patients will not read all of the signs. If you have too many, there is a chance they’ll read none of them. Limit your signage to the most important information you wish to relay. If temporary signage is put up (eg, flu shot notifications), remove the signs when they are no longer relevant.

Often, physicians enter their practices through an alternate entrance and seldom pass through the waiting room. Make it a point in your practice to observe your waiting room on a regular basis and assess its comfort level. A welcoming waiting room makes a good first impression, giving the patient more confidence in your practice.

Do you have any tips on ways to improve physician waiting rooms? Please include them in the comments section.

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