When setting up or operating a practice, decorative elements are probably the furthest thing from your mind. With employees, appointments, paperwork, and everything else to think about, it’s easy to forget about what the experience must seem like from the patients’ perspective. A good atmosphere in a waiting room can make even the most anxious patients feel more at home. Here are five areas to focus on to make the waiting room less daunting and more delightful.
Depending on what atmosphere you’re aiming for, your choices for wall decorations may differ, but I think it can be agreed upon that a sterile, off-white color does nothing for the people in it.
- Generally pastel, “cool” colors like green and blue have been proven to stimulate a calming environment, and “warm” colors like yellow and light orange encourage cheerfulness.
- Unless you strategically plan the color scheme, bold colors are trickier. And you don’t need to stop at just paint – here are some innovative mural and wall design ideas to get you started:
If you don’t have the ability or time to focus on the walls, decor can go a long way. Paintings add a degree of interest and can make a space feel more personal and warm. If you opt not to decorate your walls it is important to add something visual to draw the eye.
- Local art – my dad, a surgeon who had his own clinic, painted watercolors in his spare time and displayed them throughout his office. It can give a very personal touch to such an impersonal space as a waiting room.
- Paintings with scenery are more relaxing and allow for more escapism than art featuring people.
FURNITURE AND OTHER ESSENTIALS
Modern, angular style is great, trendy way to keep everything looking crisp and clean in your waiting room, but of course, the atmosphere is completely up to you.
- Style is key, but comfort is far more important. Furniture designers are even coming up with customizable seating for all types of waiting room visitors.
- Consider making doctor profiles that patients can peruse while waiting so they have a sense of whom they’re going to see. Put quirky facts about doctors or nurses (i.e. “Dr. Blank has named all of his pets after famous baseball players”) or detail their educational history.
- Even essential things like signs and forms can become creative and engaging – I’ve seen offices where they have laminated the patient forms so they cut down on paper waste and save space that would otherwise be used for extraneous files.
- In the ancient practice of Feng Shui, it is encouraged for there to be running water somewhere in the room to relieve stress and promote the flow of energy. A small fountain or even a water cooler can make a difference.
- And even things like lighting, plants, and even hypoallergenic scents can bring a subtle but significant positivity to your waiting room.
No matter what your clientele is, it’s wise to prepare for kids. Not only is it helpful to the parents, but it makes the kids feel more comfortable in a place that can scare even the grownups.
- If you can spare the room, have a corner sectioned off with a small table and chairs or a few toys that are easy to clean (preferably not made of cloth) and that have no ingestible parts.
- Aside from the typical toys, technology is becoming more of a key player, well, everywhere. Interactive technology is even better for kids, like the Snibbe Interactive system you can find here.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
Speaking of technology, our final point touches on the helpful distraction of media and entertainment.
- Televisions have been a staple in medical facilities, and not just waiting rooms either. Though this is an easy and established way to keep patients occupied, consider putting a spin on it – some doctors offices I’ve seen only have health-related channels. Though this is less of an escapist option, it informs people who are waiting while removing the danger of people fighting over what to watch.
- Magazines are another waiting room fixture, but to combat the germs that each magazine might pick up along with the pervasiveness of the cliché, you could post cards with helpful websites listed on them (“If you’re looking for more information regarding skin conditions, see _______”) or have a few coffee-table hardbacks so you can at least disinfect the covers.
Keeping all of these elements in mind can bring some cheer to both your practice and your patients. Also, an enjoyable doctor’s visit starting as soon as a patient walks through the door can lead to referrals, compliments, and a better doctor-patient relationship. Carefully considering your waiting room is one of the best ways to incorporate style into substance.