In the “old days,” medical and dental waiting offices were usually somewhat functional, but certainly not patient-friendly. The chairs were painful, the working space was non-existent, the lighting was cruel and unusual, and you were lucky to find a magazine from the current decade.
Time has changed! These days, savvy practice leaders understand that making their waiting room a place where patients want to remain — rather than are forced to be — is not just good manners, but it is also a good strategy. Indeed, fostering patient loyalty and generating referrals are essential for a healthy (no pun intended!) bottom-line. A waiting room that is memorable for all of the right reasons vs. the wrong ones supports both of those critical objectives.
With this in mind, here are four best practice for medical and dental waiting room office design that can make a significant, and in some cases dramatic – difference to patient satisfaction rates, roster sizes, and overall practice profitability:
1. Emphasize the “Room” Aspect of Waiting Room
Some waiting rooms are pleasant esthetically and have some nice enhanced features ( we will explore some of these shortly ), but they cram patients together like proverbial sardines. Removing or repositioning chairs, tables, and other furniture can turn space maximization into space optimization — which is the real priority.
2. Comfort Matters More than You Think
Let’s be frank! Most folks do not want to spend time at their dentist or doctor. There is nothing personal in this, of course. Even when even patients are about to experience something positive and exciting ( like a smile makeover or an auxiliary cosmetic treatment that they have been craving for years ), there are, oh, about 8000 other places give-or-take that they would rather be. It is just the nature of things.
Smart practice leaders understand this sentiment and make their waiting room a warm, welcoming, and above all comfortable place to be. For instance, they ensure that the furniture is ergonomic and cozy, that adult patients can watch HDTV or log onto free wifi, that kids have toys and video games to help them ( and their parents ) forget where they are, and so on.
3. Administer some Color Therapy
Color has a significant impact on mood, which is why some corporations spend an enormous amount of money picking and choosing colors and color schemes for their logos, websites, lobbies, and so on. Dental and medical office design should indeed borrow from the color therapy playbook by making strategic ceiling, wall and flooring choices. For example, blue is viewed as comforting and calming, which is why it is predominant in many modern practices.
4. Connect Patients with Staff
Last but not least, some patient waiting rooms are located in areas that are not visible by practice reception staff. This can create a disconnect ( think of a hospital ) that leads to patient discomfort and disengagement, and in some cases, may cause patients to exit the roster. For example, a patient in a dental office may be visibility anxious about an imminent treatment and is jumping out of her seat every time she hears the dreaded “drill” sound. If a staff member sees this, they can intervene and say something comforting and calming. This small but meaningful gesture can make all of the difference.
The Bottom Line
Perhaps the thing that most needs to change about dental and medical office waiting rooms is the term “waiting room” itself. Yes, it is the place where patients wait. But it is far more than that. It is also the area where they form impressions, draw conclusions and establish memories about practice. In this sense, calling it a “patient win or lose room” is much more apt, because it is that important and influential.