In your practice, you probably focus on creating welcoming, warm patient rooms that make your patients or clients feel comfortable. You might even work with populations where a calming environment is essential. To go along with this focus, have you designed a waiting room that features the same kind of warm, calming environment? This is an essential area not to overlook since it offers the first impression and sets the mood for each appointment. “Changes to this area of your practice can significantly improve your patients’ experience and inspire healing even before you see them in the exam room,” says Melissa M. Hamilton, MA, for Medical Economics.
If your waiting area could benefit from some improvement to become a more relaxed and inviting setting, we put together some tips that can help. You could even adapt some of these tips to your patient rooms if they’re not as welcoming as you think they could be. To achieve the right tone in your waiting room, focus on what to remove, what to add and how to improve the layout. It only takes minor, inexpensive changes to create a better atmosphere.
What to Remove or Change
When improving your waiting area, the focus shouldn’t only be on adding items. You also want to think about what is currently in your waiting room that could be making it stressful. Spend some time in this area with the perspective of a waiting patient. Are the songs and TV programs that typically play loud, distracting and potentially distressing? Are there toys and magazines consistently strewn around in a disorganized way? Does the room tend to have magazines featuring negative topics? Is the lighting too bright and strong?
Think about which aspects of the room could be stressful and remove or change them. Find an organizational system for toys and magazines, remove the broken toys and ripped magazines, put on relaxing music or inspiring television programs at a low volume and make other similar improvements. Also, consider switching to softer lighting.
What to Add
Making some minor additions to your waiting room can have a significant impact. Consider painting the walls a soothing color, such as a soft green, and adding artwork that features nature. Hamilton explains that natural landscapes and art with people showing positive emotions are the best choice, whereas abstract and other modern art can sometimes be stressful. Adding live plants to the room is another idea that can promote a relaxing environment, and certain indoor plants such as the rubber plant are even known for purifying the air.
If your waiting area doesn’t already have them, consider adding items to keep your patients, especially children, busy while waiting. Magazines, simple books and toys are great bets.
Layout also plays a large role in a waiting room. Have your reception desk close to the entrance so people know right where to go and don’t have to disturb other waiting patients on their way. Create a nice flow for entering the office as well as entering and exiting the area with patients’ rooms. If you have an area for children to play, try to make this separate from the space where adult patients will relax. You could also potentially separate spaces for watching television and for reading.
The main way to direct your layout is to face your furniture in specific ways to create designated areas, with space between and around the furniture to direct traffic. You could designate a children’s area by having a section with organized toys and possibly putting down a play mat to keep the play space contained. For the furniture itself, aim for comfortable furniture in soothing colors that is easy to keep clean.
Creating a more relaxing waiting room can put patients into a better state of mind before their visit and even during the appointment. Depending on your budget, the current state of your waiting area and your goals, your office can put as much or as little effort into changing the waiting area as you choose. We hope our list showed that small changes, such as changing the music and adding plants, make a significant difference while you also have the opportunity to redo the entire area from layout, paint and furniture to organizational tools and toys. No matter which changes you make, we believe the most important aspect is to focus on making the wait easier and more relaxing for your patients.