What is the worst part of going to the doctor? Expectation. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a boring, sterile room next to someone watching a loud video on their smartphone for an hour before you get to your appointment is not the best experience. You can’t help but wonder: How many of the other people in this room are contagious?

The patient experience has become one of the most important aspects of healthcare, although it seems that the design of the waiting room has not yet been established. This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression, and for most practices it will be wasted.

Wait times, which are often beyond the staff’s control, are another frustrating aspect of the waiting room. Eliminating waiting is impossible, but taking steps to minimize it can greatly improve the patient experience. For those situations where waiting is inevitable, some upgrades to optimize the experience are just what you need to keep patients happy.

Here are 6 strategies to optimize your waiting room experience:

  1. New furniture
    All waiting rooms look pretty much the same; uncomfortable metal chairs, bulky end tables with old magazines, maybe a TV with sports or news on. These rooms were designed decades ago and have remained largely unchanged since then. However, these rooms are extremely inconvenient for patients to wait in. In extreme cases, you may feel as if you are being held hostage. Instead of all the patients waiting together in uncomfortable chairs, try dividing them into different groups based on the type of patient they are; a coffee table surrounded by chairs for families, a quiet area to the side for busy professionals and a small play area for children. The seats must also be removable. Patients will be more cautious about remaining seated near strangers following the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The style and color of the furniture should be consistent with the branding of your practice. Those looking for a modern and cutting-edge feel will want to use modern furniture that reflects this. Those who want a more comfortable and welcoming environment will want warm colors and natural materials.

  1. Connection in the waiting room
    Being left alone in the waiting room makes patients feel like the practice doesn’t value them or their time. Feeling appreciated is a crucial component of a good patient experience. A waiting room liaison whose whole job is to make sure patients feel comfortable and valued will go a long way toward solving this problem. Patients will be served from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave. A liaison is simply a member of staff who is responsible for greeting patients when they enter and making sure they are comfortable while they wait. They can further enhance the experience by meeting repeat patients, getting to know them to create strong relationships and more easily arrange follow-ups.
  1. Activities to pass the time
    Waiting for the doctor to see you with nothing to do to pass the time can be both boring and frustrating. Providing an activity, any activity, no matter how simple, can make the wait seem much shorter than it is. The first step is free wi-fi to keep patients entertained, but why not go further? far? A few separate desks or work tables for busy professionals who want to get work done while they wait, with plenty of charging ports for each of their devices, is a must-have if you have the space. Patients often have to take time off work to see their doctor, so helping them stay productive is a fantastic way to keep patient satisfaction levels high, showing patients that the practice values ​​their time.
  1. Provide wait time updates
    Reducing wait times is the best way to improve patient satisfaction, although this is not always possible. In these situations, some practices have turned to the next best alternative, offering regular updates to patients about how long they will have to wait. Events may occur that increase or decrease patient wait times in the waiting room; informing them of these changes will show them that you value their time. Your practice may even offer patients the option to wait in their car while the doctor is ready to see them. This method of “virtual waiting” was not uncommon during the pandemic, and for many it was the only way to continue working during the worst periods. A secure, two-way messaging solution to communicate wait times and when patients’ turn is a good investment.
  1. A refined experience awaits
    Sometimes the best way to make the wait time more bearable is to add a touch of sophistication or luxury to the experience. Bars, mini-fridges or other methods of pampering will go a long way to improving the patient experience.
  1. Create strong connections
    Your practice is a local business in the community in which you operate. As such, you should invest the time and effort needed to connect with locals and create a real sense of community in the office. Partner with another local business to promote healthy activities, such as hikes or farmers markets, and open your office as a meeting place for community events.

6 Strategies to Optimize Your Waiting Room Experience