What Your Waiting Area Says About Your Practice

According to a study out of Virginia University School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, there is a significant correlation between the time patients spend in the waiting room and overall patient satisfaction. This, of course, is no surprise. Unfortunately, waiting is simply a part of ophthalmology, whether they are waiting to be called back by a technician or waiting in the dilation area, although efforts can be made to decrease the wait times. The question is not if the patient will wait but how they feel about their wait. A survey of 5,003 patients in the U.S showed that 80% of patients would be less frustrated if they knew how long the wait would be. The same survey showed that 64% of patients feel a television in the waiting area would make the wait more enjoyable, and 60% said free Wi-Fi would help.

What is your waiting area saying to your patients? Do they feel rushed through like an assembly line or do they feel you care about their wait? Does the check-in staff alert patients to extended wait times or are they left looking at their watch? I was in a clinic that had a sign posted that if you waited more than 15 minutes to be called you were directed to inquire with the receptionist. As a patient I felt reassured that my time was valued by the physicians and staff. Do you have a television in your waiting area that everyone can see? If so, it is recommended not to keep the news channel as your default channel.  When it repeats, patients realize they have seen the same thing while sitting still. ccording to a study out of Virginia University School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, there is a significant correlation between the time patients spend in the waiting room and overall patient satisfaction. This, of course, is no surprise. Unfortunately, waiting is simply a part of ophthalmology, whether they are waiting to be called back by a technician or waiting in the dilation area, although efforts can be made to decrease the wait times.   The question is not if the patient will wait but how they feel about their wait. A survey of 5,003 patients in the U.S showed that 80% of patients would be less frustrated if they knew how long the wait would be. The same survey showed that 64% of patients feel a television in the waiting area would make the wait more enjoyable, and 60% said free Wi-Fi would help.

Organizing comfortable seating in a purposeful way can demonstrate to the patient that you want them to feel relaxed during their wait. Try a “private” seating area by arranging 3-4 chairs in a way that a group can sit and talk to each other. Offer a variety of recent magazines along with the local newspaper daily, and clearly post your Wi-Fi passwords in different areas of the waiting room. Straighten the area at noon so it is as tidy for the afternoon patients as it was first thing in the morning.

Consider the lighting and color tones in your waiting area. Enhancing natural lighting and choosing neutral tones creates a calming environment. Do you have a waiting area with little to no natural light? Try strategically placing a fish tank in the waiting area to give it a more calming feel. And don’t forget the waiting room can be an area to brag about your doctors and optical department. A framed biography with a photograph of each physician promotes a better patient physician relationship. And don’t forget the certificates bragging about your staff’s knowledge.

The biggest asset in analyzing what your waiting area says about your office is the front desk staff. Ask them what they hear patients complaining about in the waiting area to improve your patient experience. Utilizing these simple steps can increase your patient satisfaction with your practice.

Sources:

Wait time as a driver of overall patient satisfaction in an ophthalmology clinic: Michael McMullen, Peter A Netland. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013; 7: 1655–1660. Published online 2013 Aug 20. doi: 10.2147/OPTH.S49382

How to Treat Patient Wait-Time Woes : Melissa McCormack on December 16, 2014 https://www.softwareadvice.com/

Book an Eyetechs Training Class Now