How can you ensure that your patients have received a great patient experience? Should you just focus on the care that you provide them? Will their experience mainly be affected by the medical advice and medications that you prescribe them? The answer is no. The moment that a patient schedules their appointment with you, the patient experience starts - and there are a lot of touch points that follow. However, in today’s blog post, we’re going to specifically talk about the waiting room experience, the first physical experience that patients have with your practice.
The Waiting Room Experience
Most medical offices focus on the actual exam rooms. However, very few practices actually focus on the first thing a patient sees once they enter a medical practice - the waiting room. It’s good to put effort into the ambiance and set up of your exam rooms and other back-office rooms. However, it’s more important to put effort into making sure that your waiting room really WOWs your patients and adds to their overall experience.
According to Money.com, a patient spends an average of 87 minutes at a medical office, spending only 20 minutes with the actual doctor. Here's what that means: 67 minutes are spent in the waiting room or waiting in exam rooms. With that much time, it’s vital that you provide a comfortable and welcoming place for your patients to patiently wait their turn.
The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management published an article which stated that there’s a direct correlation between their (a patients) perception of the overall quality of healthcare they’ve received and their experience in the waiting room. People who participated in the survey agreed that they feel they received a higher quality of care from waiting rooms that are vibrant and open compared to darker, enclosed medical offices.
Benefits You Can Gain
Whether you’re a pediatrician, allergist, or a plastic surgeon, your patients likely spend most of their time in your waiting room rather than with you. The key places inside your medical office are your waiting room and your reception area. These areas should resemble a very warm and welcoming enviornment.
Let’s assume you’re the best doctor in your specialty. A typical day for you would include a jam-packed waiting room. Now, for those patients who have to wait, you don’t want them to gain a negative impression of you or your practice during the waiting process, right?
That's why it’s important that your waiting room is warm, hospitable, and also clean - in fact, here are some of the clear advantages of having a clean waiting room.
Provides a great first impression. Would you rather be known for having a clean, organized clinic or a chaotic, messy clinic? I think we both know which option you would choose. Your place of business and your practice’s ambiance says a lot about your practice and also the providers at your practice. A clean and organized medical office provides a welcoming feeling and it’s definitely way more attractive to patients. A lot of your patients come to your practice feeling anxious or nervous. So, having a calm, serene, and clean environment can definitely give them a sense of security and calmness while waiting for their turn.
Keeps the elderly and kids safe from any airborne diseases. It’s a given that in the waiting room, patients take turns using the magazines and the TV remote - oh, not to mention, taking turns sitting in the chairs. This could (possibly) result in contagious infections or other germs being passed on. This is a huge risk for you. However, you can eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, this risk by making sure that your medical office is clean and sanitized.
Improve the Waiting Room Experience For Your Patients
How can you set your waiting room apart from the waiting rooms at other practices in your city? Here are a few of the top tips that can help you create a standout waiting room and improve the waiting room experience for your patients:
#1 Well-designed layout
You have to carefully plan out the areas of your medical office - especially your waiting room. You wouldn’t want kids to be in the same area as the adults. That would likely cause mayhem and a lot of irritable adults. Just think about it - most adults are always on the go. And even though they have an appointment with their doctor, most adults are probably checking and replying to work emails while they wait. You wouldn’t want to mix that type of patient with kids who are screaming and throwing tantrums. Therefore, it's good to provide a sectioned off nook for the children where they can sit down, read a book, or play with toys.
#2 Comfortable furniture
You don’t have to spend a boatload of money on furniture. As long as it provides comfort (and maybe a little style) for your patients, then you’re good. As much as possible, don’t compromise your patients’ comfort. Imagine sitting down for thirty minutes on a rock hard chair! That would not be a pleasant experience. Plus, because your patients aren’t comfortable, they’ll get irritated and frustrated faster!
Make your medical office comfy and cozy. Then, I bet your patients wouldn’t mind waiting for three hours (I’m kidding. Please don’t do that.). But on a more serious note, invest in the furniture in your waiting room. Comfortable patients will result in happy patients *wink*.
#3 Display artwork
One way of livening up your medical office is by putting up artwork. If you’re a pediatrician, you could even be a little creative and put up your patients’ artwork. That’s a good way of establishing a good rapport with them, plus making them feel loved and cared for.
You can also put up different nature artwork pieces. Art that has nature in it symbolizes serenity and peacefulness. It might just help your anxious patients calm down a bit. Look, I understand that art is expensive. However, you don’t need to break the bank in order to get quality pieces. You can ask around/search in your local community. You’d be surprised at how many talented artists reside in your town. Getting artwork from local artists is much cheaper, and it's a great way to create a relationship with the community which is comprised of your patients.
#4 Good lighting
A dark, enclosed room signals the brain to be scared. Imagine waiting for your test results in a medical office with no windows. I’d have a panic attack, for sure. Provide as much light, especially natural light, as possible. Glass windows and glass doors welcome natural light and make any office bigger.
#5 Offer entertainment
Wi-Fi is now a commodity provided by medical providers to their patients in the waiting room. This can help free your patients from boredom. If they’re occupied with what they’re looking at on their mobile devices, chances are, they won’t be as frustrated having to wait for their appointment.
You can also mount up a TV on a wall and show funny shows. Good shows to consider include “Just For Laughs” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. Because, scientifically speaking, when you show something funny to your patients, they’ll release more happy hormones called endorphins. This can help prolong their patience and keep them from being aggravated.
Look, I know running a medical office can be overwhelming, and there’s a lot to keep in mind. Aside from ensuring that your patients receive the best care, from the moment they schedule an appointment with you up until they pay their bill, you have to ensure that they have a good patient experience. They expect your process to be top-notch and for you to deliver good customer service. Fortunately for you, DrCatalyst can help you with some of your major pain points that affect the patient experience - such as scheduling patient phone calls, sending patient reminders, and providing the support that enhances the front desk experience.
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