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Music’s effect on the waiting room experience: A patient survey

Explore the surprising impact of music on patient experiences and healthcare habits, and learn more about the best music to play in a waiting room.

patient waiting room music survey

Patients’ preferred waiting room tunes

The gentle hum of music often accompanies patients’ anticipatory pause in the quiet corners of waiting rooms, offering a soothing balm or a cheerful distraction. To better understand this correlation, Tebra explored the intersection between music and patient emotions through a combination of surveys and Spotify analysis. Curious about how melodies might ease or worsen the tension of a doctor’s visit? Journey with us as we decode the soundtrack of the healthcare experience and how it impacts patient morale and even honesty with their doctors.

Key takeaways

  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey is the most popular medical office waiting room song.
  • Classical music is the genre most associated with pain at the doctor’s office, while country music is the one most associated with anxiety. 
  • Folk music fans are the most likely to be dishonest with their medical providers.
  • Metal fans are the most likely to rarely visit their doctor.
  • Hip-hop and rap fans are the most likely to regularly visit the hospital.

Topping the waiting room charts

Music has the power to transport us, elevate our moods, and offer comfort in moments of stress. To begin, we looked at playlists on Spotify with “waiting room” in the title, focusing specifically on medical offices, to see which songs were played the most.

waiting room music survey results - common artists

In modern medical waiting rooms, these Spotify playlists have leaned toward rock and pop music genres, with a sprinkle of hip-hop/rap, country, and R&B mixed in. But these genres contain a wide variety of artists. Taylor Swift’s story-driven tunes topped the charts with 1,418 occurrences across waiting room playlists, followed by the timeless appeal of The Beatles and the modern beats of Maroon 5.

Perhaps patients find comfort in the familiar refrains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – the most common song we found on waiting room playlists. Other popular songs included “I’m Like A Bird” by Nelly Furtado and the soothing rhythms of “Africa” by TOTO.

Playlists and the patient experience

After looking at what providers were putting on their playlists, we talked to the patients to see what music they wanted to hear in the waiting room versus which they’d rather avoid.

patients waiting room genres ranked

With its serene and timeless compositions, classical music was deemed the most relaxing genre by 50% of patients. This choice could transform a tense wait into a tranquil interlude. The smooth and mellow tones of jazz might be why it also ranked highly for relaxation, followed by the understated vibes of Lo-Fi. Conversely, the intensity of metal, hip-hop, and rap were the least favored, indicating that these genres may exacerbate an already stressful medical situation.

Despite country music’s popularity, this genre was associated with the longest perceived wait times as well as the most anxiety at the doctor’s. Classical music also elicited some mixed feelings. Although it was the most relaxing, it was linked to both the longest waits and the most pain experienced in doctor’s office waiting rooms.

Beyond focusing on the general doctor’s office, we broadened our horizons to see how different music genres impacted various medical office experiences.

Office typeGenre with the shortest perceived waitGenre with the longest perceived waitGenre most associated with with painGenre most associated with with anxiety
Dentist PopCountryClassicalPop
HospitalJazzClassicalJazzJazz
OptometristJazzClassicalClassicalClassical
DermatologistJazzPopPopJazz

Health habits and music preferences

Leaving the waiting room, we finished our study by looking at how a person’s preferred music genre might correlate with their lifestyle and health habits.

music and health habits among patients

Folk music fans topped the charts for dishonesty with doctors at 31%, closely followed by indie lovers and punk rockers. On the flip side, classical music aficionados were least likely to distort the truth. 

We also got a snapshot of the healthiest and least healthy fans by their favorite genre. We measured their healthiness based on whether they drank 16 cups of water daily, ate fruit and vegetables, got eight hours or more of sleep regularly, and exercised. Country music listeners came out on top as the healthiest, while fans of R&B and soul showed the most room for improvement in their health routines. In terms of specific habits, indie fans were the most hydrated, while those who preferred classical music had a penchant for fruits and vegetables.

As for health check-up regularity, country music fans were the most diligent, with 53% visiting the doctor on a regular basis. Meanwhile, metal fans were the least likely to visit the doctor’s office, with over 1 in 4 admitting they rarely did so. But that wasn’t the only type of medical appointment we asked about.

Office TypeGenre with fans most likely to visit regularlyGenre with fans least likely to visit regularly
DentistCountryClassical
HospitalHip-hop/RapIndie
OptometristHip-hop/RapMetal
DermatologistJazzPunk

The final note

Music’s role in the waiting room is more than a backdrop; it could actually impact patients’ perceptions and behavior. We found pop and rock on the most waiting room playlists, but other genres showed more nuanced results. Many said classical music is the most relaxing genre, but it was also the one most associated with feeling pain in the waiting room. Fans of certain genres were also more likely to be honest with their physicians and stick to different healthcare habits. Music may have the power to be more than just entertaining – it might even encourage a better healthcare experience.

Methodology

We surveyed 1,002 Americans about their health habits and music preferences. For genre fandom breakdowns, 58% were rock fans, 50% were pop fans, 25% were hip-hop/rap fans, 18% were R&B fans, 16% liked country, 15% liked classical music, 15% liked metal, 13% listened to electronic, 13% listened to indie, and 12% listened to jazz. Respondents were able to select up to three genres they liked.

Additionally, for data about commonly played music in waiting rooms, we scraped 59,363 songs from 286 playlists on Spotify containing terms associated with doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, and waiting rooms.

About Tebra

Tebra is at the forefront of healthcare innovation, providing cutting-edge solutions that streamline practice management and enhance patient care. 

Fair use statement

Are there any music fans or medical professionals in your life who might be interested in this data? Feel free to share it, but please only do so for non-commercial purposes and include a link back to this page.

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Andrea Curry, Head of Editorial at The Intake

Andrea Curry is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years of storytelling under her belt. She has won multiple awards for her work and is now the head of editorial at The Intake, where she puts her passion for helping independent healthcare practices into action.

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