Why do patients enjoy coming to your office? No surprises here—it’s the way you make them feel. And the atmosphere of your practice contributes to that good feeling.
Speaking of atmosphere, let’s talk about your lobby and waiting area. Does it feel more like sitting in the DMV or in the lobby of a luxury hotel? Studies show the atmosphere and attractiveness of your office are strong components of patient satisfaction.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, your patients’ perception of wait time is just as important as the actual minutes that tick by. Amenities in your waiting room can make a big difference in perceived wait time. When your patients are comfortable and entertained, they won’t be checking their watches every two minutes. Additionally, when you do call them back for treatment, they will be in a better mood.
But there are amenities, and then there are … amenities.
The ‘Amenities’ Nobody Needs
Would anybody call the following items amenities? Well, you never know; you’ll find these items in a lot of practices. In any case, these shouldn’t clutter your waiting area:
Old reading material
If the magazines in your lobby are more than a couple of months old, it’s time to update those subscriptions. Providing patients with a dated experience will not only bore them, it will make your practice seem out of touch. Even something this small can decrease trust and make patients think they aren’t getting the best experience.
Some reading materials, like coffee table books, are more timeless. But when the dust jackets look dog-eared and ragged, update those as well. Get rid of anything with torn pages or ripped covers. You want to give your patients the most enjoyable experience you can.
While posting your payment policies is a good idea, limit ad hoc signage to a small area of your check-in counter. Displaying multiple payment and cancellation policies in the room can come off as cluttered, even rigid. Overall, avoid too much promotional material on the walls.
Instead, create a restful atmosphere with tasteful art pieces. Muted colors or nature scenes can help your patients feel comfortable and ease concerns about their appointment.
When choosing your waiting room furniture, think comfort and luxury. Sitting on an uncomfortable chair makes waiting seem longer. Whether the furniture is modern or classic, perform a sit test to see how comfortable your patients will be.
Your waiting room sends your patients messages on a subliminal level. A messy check-in desk can give patients the feeling your staff is inefficient or unreliable. Shabby furniture can suggest your practice is unsuccessful. Put your best foot forward and welcome patients into your practice with well cared for, comfortable furniture.
The Amenities All Practices Should Have
Now that you know what to avoid in your waiting area, let’s get to the items no practice should be without:
Internet access and technology
Free wi-fi is a given these days. A study in Clinic Design found that 57 percent of patients preferred using their mobile phones to traditional waiting room activities like watching television or thumbing through magazines. Providing free office branded wi-fi lets your patients access their own entertainment or work on a laptop, and makes a good impression.
Many offices also provide interactive games and other user-controlled content. Patients can choose the games they’d like to play or shows they’d like to watch.
If you have a television in your lobby, tune in to a patient-friendly channel like the food channel or a travel channel. If you plan to keep the volume low, remember to enable the closed caption setting on the television.
In many practices, check-ins are also going digital. Not only are check-in tablets or kiosks easier for patients, they can also eliminate long lines at the reception desk.
Individualized activity zones
Your patients all have unique preferences. Your waiting area should reflect these preferences with individualized zones for various activities.
One of these zones needs to be a kid-friendly area for patients with children. The toys should be large and easy to clean. Avoid toys that can be dropped throughout the waiting room (like blocks or miniature cars). Instead, invest in activity tables, cubes, or stationary whiteboards whose use is restricted to a particular area.
Not everyone likes to sit in front of a TV, so consider a quiet zone for people who want to read or work on their laptop. This zone could even feature bar stools and a table equipped with charging stations.
On the other hand, a selfie station is a fun way to engage with patients right as they come in the door. Set up an iPad stand with the Banyan app in such a way that patients will want to share a selfie on social media. This zone could be equipped with silly touches like funny hats or props to use in the selfies your patients take.
It’s also wise to provide a variety of seating options. Some patients may want to relax on the couch while patients with back or mobility issues might prefer harder chairs that are easy to get in and out of.
Drinks and snacks
While a dental practice wouldn’t offer a juice bar, what about a pebble-ice and water dispenser? Depending on the focus of your practice, offering drinks and snacks can go a long way toward helping patients be relaxed, refreshed, and ready for their visit.
A small bowl of sugar-free mints or Trident gum can help self-conscious patients freshen their breath before or after they hit the dentist chair.
Some patients may spend a long time in the office, and so will family members or friends who are waiting in the lobby. Even a simple offer of a drink or snack shows understanding and fosters goodwill.
Your waiting area should welcome patients, help them feel comfortable, and show that you care about them. With the right amenities, your practice will make the patient experience a great one—from start to finish.
What amenities does your practice include? We’d love to know how you’re making your patients feel special every day.