10 Marks of a Healthy Waiting Room

Jul 5, 2020 10:20:00 AM / by Joy Youell

For some people, waiting is the worst part of going to the doctor’s office. In fact, 97% of patients are frustrated with wait times. There are many things that you can do to make your waiting room less stressful. Surveys indicate that some key elements to offset this stress and anxiety is giving patients estimated wait times, amenities like free WIFI and even personal apologies for extended waiting. These solutions benefit patients and staff.

Waiting room management will increase health and reduce the risk of infection from illnesses like COVID-19. By creating a healthy waiting room, your office staff are able to focus on essential admin duties. A better waiting room experience can increase good reviews, ensure patient returns and lower anxiety and tension in the office. 

Here are the 10 marks that your waiting room is healthy and your patients are probably happy. 

1. Low wait times

According to Becker Hospital Review, 40% of patients said that they would change physicians in order to have a shorter wait time. One of the ways that doctors' offices can reduce wait times is by asking patients to fill out information before they get to the doctor waiting room. This information could include family history, recent prescriptions or pre-existing conditions. Another solution is to implement and enforce policies for no-shows and late comers. When doing this, make sure that all patients are aware of this policy before their appointment. This will ensure that appointments do not get backed up because of a few late patients. Check out this list of even more ways that you can reduce the wait times at your practice or emergency room. 

2. Updated furniture

Providing your patients with comfortable and clean seating will automatically make them feel better about their visit. Especially if wait times are long, having a comfortable place to sit can alleviate some of that frustration. One way to make your seating area better is by providing a variety of spaces for patients to sit. Some patients arrive with their families, some arrive alone and others are hoping for a place to sit and work while they wait. You can creatively use your space to include comfortable chairs, couches, tables and even desks. It is also important to make sure that your furniture is made out of an easy to clean material. Doing this will make it easier for your staff to sanitize the furniture. 

3. Clear layout

In larger medical centers, such as hospitals, patients can easily become confused as to where they need to go when they first arrive. Emergency and hospital waiting rooms especially should make sure that the check-in desk is the first thing that patients see when they walk through the doors. This desk should also be viewable from the seating area. If your practice or hospital has multiple desks, make sure that they are all clearly labeled with signage. Also clearly label where bathrooms are so that patients can access them easily. Patients using wheelchairs, walkers and any other disability equipment should have enough space to maneuver through the waiting room. Doing these things will reduce confusion and increase efficiency in your waiting room. 

4. Social distancing

To keep your waiting room safe, you must implement social distancing. There are many ways that you can do this. Mark spots six feet apart where patients can stand while they wait to check in at the front desk. You should also mark where patients can sit, putting distance between each seat. Creating visual reminders, such as posters, can encourage patients to continue social distancing. Using systems like DocClocker for remote check-in and digital wait times offers patients the option to wait in their car or outside. Some practices have decided not to open their waiting rooms at all. Instead, they are solely using systems like DocClocker and asking patients to come in at their precise appointment time. Implementing these practices in doctors office waiting rooms safeguards the health of staff and patients. 

5. Displays 

Adding digital displays to your waiting room can provide added entertainment for your patients. Doctors waiting rooms can use televisions to broadcast local news, cartoons, movies or tv shows. This makes long wait times feel much shorter. Providing a movie or tv show is especially helpful for pediatric waiting rooms. You can also use digital displays, such as monitors, for information. These monitors can rotate between graphics for new policies, health resources or advertisements. Many waiting rooms also include a variety of art. Make sure that you use scenic views or abstract art to have a calming effect on your patients. Here are some more tips on how to decorate your waiting room. 

6. Technology resources 

60% of patients said that if doctor office waiting rooms offered free wifi, their frustration would be lower. Offering free wifi allows patients to easily get through a long wait at the doctor's office. Free wifi means that patients can scroll through social media, watch videos and even get work done. Make sure that the password for the wifi is easily accessible through posters or as part of the check-in process. Another great technology resource for patients are charging stations. These portable stations can plug into an outlet and include many different charger extensions. If a patient has exhausted their battery, then they are able to charge it right in the waiting room. While free wifi and charging ports sound costly, they will increase your patient’s waiting room satisfaction. 

7. Wait time information

80% of patients reported that they would feel better about waiting if they were given estimated wait times. Some doctor’s offices choose to display the average wait time for the day on a monitor in the waiting room. Other medical centers use a pager system which alerts patients when the doctor is ready to see them. While this may minimize some frustration for a patient, it would be even better if they could be given real-time wait times for their appointment. Luckily, DocClocker can help with that. When patients check in remotely on their DocClocker app, they are given a wait time on their phone. This not only provides peace of mind, but also allows the patient to wait in their car or outside instead of risking contracting an illness. Go here for more information about DocClocker. 

8. Luxuries and amenities

In some waiting rooms, the luxuries can be limited to a stack of old magazines. In others, patients have access to massage chairs. Including amenities in your waiting room is a great way to create a better experience for your patients. Here are some cost-friendly ways to upgrade your waiting room:

  • Stock a mini fridge with bottled water
  • Include complimentary coffee 
  • Provide snacks through a vending machine
  • Create storage spaces for personal items
  • Add secured tablets stocked with games and magazines

9. Community connections 

Another great way to improve your waiting room is to create connections with local businesses. You can do this by selling small-batch goods, such as honey or candles,  from small businesses. Doing this shows your patients that you care about small businesses in your area. It also promotes the business and gives your patients an opportunity to try something new. You can also advertise businesses in your area. This can be done through a business card bulletin board or through signage and partnerships. Doing this promotes local businesses, and in turn, may allow you to advertise your practice at their business. 

10. Remote options 

Providing remote check in options is one of the best things that you can do to improve the waiting room experience for patients. Through the app, DocClocker allows patients to remotely check in to their appointment on their phone. This enforces social distancing and makes appointments more efficient and convenient. Once the patient checks in, they can view their wait time on the app. DocClocker also provides online appointment booking, saving office staff time. Check out DocClocker here

Improve Waiting Room Management

Improving waiting room best practices will give you better reviews, promote patient returns and increase satisfaction. Having a welcoming and entertaining waiting room will make patients and staff happier. Waiting room management plays a big role in improvement. Using the best systems will completely transform your waiting room by making it a more productive, safe and efficient space. DocClocker’s waiting room management system includes remote check in, real-time wait times, reviewing services and online appointment booking. Learn more about DocClocker here.   

Tags: DocClocker, Wait time app, Waiting room, Patient app, Healthcare app, Doctor app, Apps for doctor visits, doctor patient relationship, patient communication

Joy Youell

Written by Joy Youell

Joy Youell writes about IT healthcare, digital medical innovations and improving patient experiences for DocClocker.