Improve Patient Care
with a Better Waiting Room Experience
Patients spend an average of 20 minutes in the waiting room for a visit — and those 20 minutes can feel long and uncomfortable. The good news is that better office practices, advances in technology and attention to detail can improve the experience — and increase patient satisfaction.
Time spent waiting may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be miserable. The happier your patients are as they wait, the more effective their appointments are likely to be, and the stronger the doctor-patient relationships.
Here are some ideas that could make a difference:
- Use technologies to help manage your patients’ waiting experience. Mobile apps can add flexibility to appointment scheduling and arrival times, with some offering flexible “wait at home or at office” options. Similar to how some restaurants operate, paging technology might allow patients to leave the waiting room if there’s enough time.
- Offer patients electronic resources so they can be entertained and take care of errands online. Have chargers for cellphones and other devices, though you might consider posting a sign asking that any video games have the sound turned off, particularly for offices that accommodate lots of children. (The parents will thank you!)
- Encourage patients to write down questions or concerns by setting out paper and writing implements in a central location. Suggesting that the patient think about what they want to know before they go in, and documenting it, allows for a thoughtful experience—and reinforces that you care about their concerns and education.
- Train your staff in customer service. While customer service used to be seen more as the province of the retail and service industries, the current medical climate encourages people to view doctors’ offices the same way. Training doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it could support your staff not only in managing people’s needs face-to-face but also in managing call volume and scheduling.
- Make your waiting room a place where you would want to spend time. With so many demands competing for your and your staff’s attention, waiting room atmosphere can fall by the wayside. To stay on top of the environment, schedule periods throughout the day for your team to straighten the room.
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Important Legal Disclosures and Information
1. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, 2013 [gold-foundation.org/time-spent-waiting-for-doctor]
2. Healing Healthcare Systems [healinghealth.com/improve-hospital-waiting-room-experience2]
3. Journal of Healthcare Information Technology, 2014 [chartisforum.com/wp-content/uploads/Mobile_Solutions_Improve_Patient_Experience_Kropf_Scalzi.pdf]
4. Healing Healthcare Systems [healinghealth.com/improve-hospital-waiting-room-experience2]
5. Massachusetts Medical Society, 2014 [www.massmed.org/News-and-Publications/Vital-Signs/Five-Tips-to-Help-Your-Practice-Set-the-Stage-for-Quality-Customer-Service/#.WMq9kRIrJmA]
6. Dignity Health, 2015 [dignityhealth.org/Articles/Build-a-Positive-Atmosphere-in-the-Waiting-Room-to-Make-Patients-Comfortable-and-Happy]
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