The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

5 ideas to make waiting more pleasant at your healthcare practice

A few small adjustments to your waiting room can help boost patient retention and even drive practice growth.

Mother and daughter waiting in doctor's office waiting room

At a Glance

  • Practices should create a comfortable, warm, and inviting space in their waiting rooms with features such as layered lighting, soothing music, and clear signage for facilities like restrooms
  • Staff should warmly greet patients upon arrival, update them on wait times, engage them in pleasant conversations, and remember facts about them from visit to visit
  • Providers can consider creating a workspace in the waiting area, complete with WiFi and charging outlets, along with luxury amenities like a fridge with bottled water

When patients visit their healthcare provider, it’s almost inevitable they’ll spend some time in the waiting room. In fact, people wait an average of 18 minutes past their scheduled appointment to see their provider, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Sequence, a Salesforce company.

Reducing wait time should be a main priority at your medical practice, but it’s unlikely you’ll eliminate it entirely. Here are several ways to boost patient retention by making your waiting room as pleasant as possible.

Create a warm, inviting space

No one wants to spend time in a waiting room filled with uncomfortable furniture and fluorescent lighting. Improve your medical practice’s growth by transforming your space into a serene, relaxing spot that’s truly enjoyable:

  • Invest in comfortable couches and chairs
  • Use warm, layered lighting to create a more welcoming environment
  • Stream spa-like music through the sound system
  • Indicate where patients can find the bathroom, and key or code, if needed, with clear signage

If people have to wait for their appointment, giving them a soothing area in which to unwind will feel more like a break from their hectic day and less like an inconvenience.

Ensure staff provides good customer service

Your staff can enhance the waiting room experience by being kind and attentive. This includes: 

  • Warmly greeting patients upon arrival
  • Updating them on wait times
  • Engaging them in pleasant conversation
  • Remembering facts about them from visit to visit

Of course, staff can’t be present for patients if they’re busy with burdensome administrative duties. Automating tasks that don’t require a human touch, such as sending appointment reminders and post-appointment feedback requests, gives your team more time to focus on the patients in front of them.

Automating tasks that don’t require a human touch, such as sending appointment reminders and post-appointment feedback requests, gives your team more time to focus on the patients in front of them. ”

Promote productivity

Patients take valuable time out of their day to visit your medical practice, so sitting in your waiting room doing nothing can feel like a huge waste of time. 

Think of it from a financial standpoint: the average private sector worker earns $32.92 per hour, as of June 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If a patient takes unpaid time away from work for a doctor’s appointment, every minute they have to wait costs them money.

Encourage patient retention by converting a quiet corner of your waiting room into a work area. Add a few small tables, offer free WiFi, and make sure there are plenty of electric outlets for charging laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Offer elevated perks

Having a water cooler in your waiting room is nice, but you can do better than that. Take things up a notch by offering a few extras to add a touch of luxury to your space. Consider amenities such as: 

  • A mini fridge filled with bottled water
  • Complimentary coffee and tea bar
  • Some simple snacks 
  • Complimentary masks and hand sanitizer
  • Phone chargers for Apple and Android devices available to borrow

Rolling out the red carpet for patients will make them feel special and help ease the frustration of having to wait past their scheduled appointment time. This approach can also be a savvy way to grow your practice. It’s almost certain these comforts will work their way into both word-of-mouth recommendations and online patient reviews.

Designate a kid-friendly area

For obvious reasons, pediatricians’ waiting rooms are all about children, but many parents are forced to bring little ones along to their own appointments. Waiting for their name to be called becomes extra stressful with bored children in tow and no area to separate them from the glaring eyes of other adult patients.

Ease the pressure by turning a corner of your waiting room into a kids’ area. Fill this space with quiet activities for children of a variety of ages to keep them entertained until it’s time for their parents’ appointment. This can be a great new patient marketing strategy because it will make people with children more comfortable if they have to bring them to appointments.

Boost patient retention with comfort

It’s virtually impossible to see patients as soon as they walk through the door of your practice. But a few small adjustments to your waiting room can help boost patient retention and even drive practice growth. When people are able to spend time in a comfortable space they actually enjoy, they’re less frustrated by the delay.

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How to get patients to keep coming back. Learn what influences patient choices and behaviors in the 2023 Patient Perspectives report.

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Written by

Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate HR and compliance consulting. She has worked to further elevate her skills by pursuing and receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting, video scriptwriting, effective content positioning, case study writing, and SEO. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content for the medical field that ensures others can work toward achieving their goals.

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