Saturday, February 26, 2011

The New Waiting Room: A Healthcare Asset

By Robert L. Titzer in "Medical Office Today"

Ever waited in your own waiting room? Ever sat in a crowded row of chairs against a bare white wall, leafing through a tattered magazine, before another long wait in a stark examination room? What impression does that experience leave on your patients? Do they care?

Answer: Yes. Studies show that patients do care about the medical office environment and that a pleasant waiting room can make all the difference in how they perceive your practice. Long a neglected stepchild of medical office design, the waiting room is receiving overdue attention. Increasingly, physicians recognize that the waiting room affects not only consumer perceptions, but also business efficiency and even health outcomes.

Until recently, physician practices had little motivation to focus on the waiting room; quality of care was the highest priority. However, today’s consumers expect more than just competency. Medical practitioners are beginning to act like retailers, which have long invested heavily in store design to influence consumer attitudes and behavior.

Superficial as it may sound, in today’s image-driven marketplace, patients are more likely than in the past to judge a physician’s abilities by the look of the waiting area. Dinged doors, dirty flooring, worn seating and dog-eared magazines can suggest that cleanliness is not important and a physician’s skills are not current—negative perceptions that can undermine patients’ trust.

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