The design of waiting rooms is a vital point of discussion in the healthcare world. Some think waiting rooms will become a thing of the past since the patient will be able to check in with ease via a kiosk and report directly to an exam room. The other possibility is that the patient will call with their time of arrival, at which point they will be given a specific exam room number. Or a patient may arrange for a virtual appointment with their medical professional. In all cases, there’s no uncomfortable waiting involved.
However, those options are still in the future. Furthermore, it is common that a patient will bring family members or friends with them who may not accompany them to their exam room. They will need a place to sit and wait. So, waiting rooms are still needed in clinics and hospitals—-for the time being.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about waiting rooms (Healing Begins in the Waiting Room) outlining what, from an Integrative Space perspective, would be an ideal environment. All the suggestions still apply, with some modifications that came about through an article in Health Care Design magazine entitled “Creating a Better Waiting Room Experience,” outlining the work of Mary Lindeman, Erin West and Libby Laguta, colleagues at CDH Partners, Inc. of Marietta, GA.
Here are some suggestions I’ve made and how they’ve recently evolved:
- One suggestion I’ve always recommended is to have pleasant distractions other than a television program. Current magazines, art books, artwork, books of poetry are all options that could inspire a patient or a family member.
However, there is an exception to the television option that I concur would work beautifully in a waiting room. Many waiting rooms (and patient hospital rooms for that matter) are incorporating the C.A.R.E. channel accessed through the television. This channel provides nature sounds, outdoor scenes and relaxing music to improve the patient experience.
- My goal is to assure that all the waiting room chairs are not set up in rows and that the chairs can be moved around if necessary. Sometimes a patient comes alone and wants privacy and sometimes they are accompanied by a few people who all want to sit together.
Now I’ve learned there are actual terms for this: sociopetal has the seating arrangement so the chairs are facing into a group; sociofugal has the seating for those who do not want to be part of a group. In an ideal waiting room, there should be some of each option available.
- And a new consideration which the CDH Partners team pointed out is that most people, regardless of what’s provided in the waiting room, prefer to be distracted by their cell phones. This option must take into consideration that there are enough plug-ins and charging stations as part of the design.
Although waiting rooms may eventually be a thing of the past, they currently provide the first impression a patient will have, and should be as much of an integrative space as the rest of the healthcare facility, enabling the patient to feel safe, re-assured and relaxed.
For additional ideas for eliminating stress and discomfort that patients often encounter while waiting in a clinic or hospital setting, read my earlier post, “Technology + Integrative Space to Improve the Patient’s Waiting Room Experience”