The waiting room of a healthcare institution may have just as strong an impact on patient satisfaction rates than the medical care they receive. Ultimately, the waiting room gives the first impression that patients have of the medical practice; they also spend an average of 20 minutes in the waiting room before their appointment.

Healthcare providers should make it a point to not only provide high quality medical care to patients, but also a high standard of service. One of the ways they can achieve this is by making the waiting room more inviting for patients and visitors of all ages.

Invest in high quality healthcare waiting room furniture

Thanks to technological advancements, furniture can now be adapted to serve different needs. For example, tables can double as seats or foldable seats, which will be useful for wheelchair users.

Healthcare providers can also invest in chairs that are suitable for medical waiting rooms. For example, National Business Furniture sells medical waiting room chairs that have many antimicrobial vinyl options, making them easy to clean and ideal for medical environments. Additionally, they provide bariatric medical waiting room chairs that enable bariatric patients to sit safely and comfortably.

Decorate the walls

Often, interior designers emphasise on the importance of natural light in healthcare interiors, including waiting rooms. However, if the waiting room is situated off of interior corridors, artwork can help to compensate for the lack of windows.

“If you don’t have access to a lovely view, art that evokes beautiful images of the natural world has been shown to be really beneficial to patients,” said Jean Hansen, a San Francisco-based interior designer and HDR Architecture’s sustainable interiors manager.

If there are artistic hands among the healthcare staff, putting them in charge of decorating the walls serves a dual purpose, not only to hone on their talent but also because they best understand what patients and staff who are there on a daily basis would prefer.

Provide entertainment for both patients and visitors

Another tip in creating that positive buzz is to engage visitors and patients to do something beyond reading or watching the television set. Healthcare providers can create a corner where visitors can leave well-wishes or messages on the wall, using a post-it pad.

The area on the wall can be segregated into parts to allow for different categories, such as compliments to staff, motivational messages to fellow patients or greetings to their doctor.

Waiting can also be made fun with a family colouring corner, as some of the colouring books in the market currently cater to people of all ages.

Create a unique children’s corner

A children’s corner can be created in the medical waiting room, assuming that there is no paediatrics waiting room. The environment should be as interesting and visually stimulating as possible.

The Children’s Hospital of New York has a literature theme that is carried into the waiting rooms and various units throughout the hospital. The walls are filled with images and passages from popular children’s books. Additionally, these themes may also serve as conversation starters between the child and the clinician

Pleasant background music

According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, there is a significant decrease in anxiety in adults accompanying their children to the emergency room when there was music playing in the background.

Researchers came to the conclusion that music was a simple and effective way to reduce the anxiety of visitors in an emergency department area.

Maintain cleanliness at all times

Maintaining cleanliness should be the role of all healthcare personnel. Especially after a peak period, any mess should be cleaned up quickly, bins should be emptied, items in vending machines should be topped up and stained or damaged items should be removed promptly.

Nowadays, healthcare providers are under immense external pressure to provide high-quality, patient-centred care, which is influenced by a combination of physical and social factors.

“Today, it’s about understanding your patients’ experience, being empathetic, walking in their shoes. It’s not about the patient just sitting in the chair, waiting,” said Cama, the author of Evidence-based Health Care Design. MIMS

Read more:
How the physical environment of a hospital affects patient health
10 things doctors' offices need to improve patient experience
Addressing the long wait times for healthcare in Singapore and abroad
How to improve your hospital's standing and reputation