So, your waiting room. With almost every aspect of healthcare transforming, the traditional waiting room is changing, too. Forward-thinking medical practices are introducing newer concepts and tools to make patients more productive, educated and engaged even when they are sitting in the waiting room. These medical practices are trying to convert their waiting room into an asset, not a liability.
Chances are, you are one of those who have not left a single stone unturned in ensuring your waiting room is comfortable, well-lit, engaging and professional. You probably even went a step ahead and installed an electric fireplace and an exorbitantly priced music system. You did not even shy away from stuffing the side racks with toys and crayons and, of course, a generous supply of popular books and magazines. All of this is really “good.”
However, this may still not be what your patients want. In fact, despite spending more than you are earning, you could still be driving patients to your competition. Why? Because, unlike you, your competitor may not have settled for “good.”
Go and sit in your waiting room
Almost half a century ago, Harper Lee wrote, “You don’t know a person until you get into their skin and walk around in it for a while.” It was a wise advice then, and it is a wise advice today. Let’s follow it.
So, grab the very first chance you get and sit in your waiting room for a good while. If possible, for the next few minutes, forget what you see around and just focus on how you feel.
Do you feel cared for? Important? Do you feel at ease? Do you feel attended to? Do you feel like someone who matters? Do you get a feeling that your doctor and medical staff is respecting your willingness and wish to choose your preferred path to health?
Patients are PEOPLE, and people have choices
All of the above questions were designed to help you understand that your patients are not just patients; they are people. “Patient” is nothing more than a role that they are playing while they see you and consult with you; exactly like when you take a flight, you “become” a “passenger.”
However, the role of a “patient” is genuine and must be respected. It is your responsibility to see the real, complex and precious human being underneath that patient’s role. Simply put, if the role is the tip of the iceberg that peeks out of the water, the human being is the huge mass of ice below.
The point we are trying to convey here is that your waiting room must be designed to entertain and engage PEOPLE, and not PATIENTS. This is because you are not dealing with patients, you are dealing with people. And, the bigger truth is that the people you are dealing with have choices and preferences.
Your patient waiting area: Revisited
Seen in this context of “people with choices,” it becomes clear and essential to achieving clear business objectives. Your waiting room, a place that was merely a room with chairs and magazines, is one of your strongest and most efficient tools for attracting and retaining patients. The way your waiting room is designed and maintained will confirm that your patients are making the right choice of doctor.
Or, to simplify things, if your waiting room is not firing on all cylinders, you will end up losing not just patients, but also reputation. You will destroy your medical practice and kill every penny of revenue while your competition grows on all three aspects.
5 Best practices of GREAT waiting areas
Broadly speaking, there are five principles of fantastic waiting rooms. Again, when we say “fantastic,” we do not mean those fancy waiting rooms with the best quality of furniture and the most expensive apps and gadgets. By “fantastic” waiting room, we mean those that regularly engage and entertain patients, so they strengthen the relationship, trust you more and know without a doubt that they have made the right choice of doctor.
Best practice #1: Provide a great setting
Successful doctors provide a great environment in their waiting room where everything is about health and well-being. You must not forget that your patients do not see things the same way you do. While you may see things in terms of facilities and features, your patients see them in terms of the value they add to the overall patient experience. Every object and element in your waiting area must contribute to the overall patient experience that you want to deliver. This is when every decorative item and useful gadget will confirm the fact that your patients are making the right choice.
Best practice #2: Every element should engage the patient
How often do you and your staff spend time in the reception area? It is important so you can engage patients and understand their thought process, queries, fears, reservations, anxieties and aspirations. Patients go through countless emotions when waiting to see the doctor. It is important for you to know all of these emotions because the thoughts and impressions your patients in the waiting room profoundly shape their overall experience. The rule of thumb is: Engage quickly, and engage regularly.
Best practice #3: Educate your patients
It is advised to begin educating your patients in the waiting room – long before you sit down with them. This is because the waiting room is not just a room where your patients can flip the pages of a glossy bestseller. Instead, it is a place where impressions are formed, opinions cemented and decisions are made. You must feel free and creative to use a range of internal marketing tools, such as an office video to educate your patients on how your practice will help them achieve health and well-being.
Best practice #4: Expand your horizon
With the ever-increasing competition, market segmentation and a persistent fight for your patients, it is essential to expand your mind and realize that you provide much more than just healthcare services. You are an integral part of your patients’ ability to live a happier and healthier life. Does your waiting room communicate this thought? It is simple to achieve this: You need resources, tools and your staff to understand how your medical practice can benefit patients, and then get ready to showcase each benefit in your waiting room environment. By making your patients realize the value that you deliver, you will not earn their loyalty but will also deepen the relationship and win their trust.
Best practice #5: Touch patients on an emotional level
Most waiting rooms are big on facilities but small on emotions. This is a missed opportunity that can prove fatal. Waiting rooms are an ideal place to touch patients on an emotional level as they are accessible, flexible and waiting. You can consider displaying visual or audio content that makes an emotional appeal to your patients. Such tactics will deepen patients’ relationship with you and inspire them to explore new services you offer.
However, audio and visual content must be customized for your practice and not merely entertain patients. The aim is not to kill time by making your patients watch Oprah for 10 minutes while they wait. Your goal is to take full advantage of this opportunity to influence their choices.
There are no shortcuts to great health. It takes a reliable and relevant health program, along with right tips and guidance. It takes time, effort and knowledge. There is an old saying, “If it were available in a bottle, everyone would take it.”
The same formula applies to creating an excellent waiting area and implementing all five best practices described in this article. It is not going to happen overnight. It requires a lot of planning, time and hard work.
But then when you look at the huge ROI of attracting and retaining patients who would otherwise be snatched by your competitors, creating an engaging waiting room is a low-risk investment that pays higher-than-normal dividends.