Several months ago, I wrote an article called Healing Begins in the Waiting Room,addressing the issue of what patients are experiencing when they visit a medical facility and have to spend time in a waiting room—-and how to make the wait more enjoyable using the principles of an integrated space.
In a recent article in Healthcare Design Magazine, architect Joan Suchomel discusses the topic of the patient waiting experience on a similar level.
She notes that the healthcare design industry has recognized that creating a cookie-cutter version of a waiting room in hospitals and clinics that meets the requirements for the specific number of chairs and is pleasant in a generic sort of way is no longer working. Bottom line: patients don’t feel special.
Several of Suchomel’s suggestions are whole-heartedly in line with those of an integrative space:
- Make the waiting area more pleasant with comfortable chairs, low-level noise, and plenty of room;
- Have windows with a view so that patients might capture the benefits of nature;
- Enable chairs to be moved into smaller groups or family areas to accommodate flexible needs and privacy;
- Carve out specific TV areas for those who want to watch television, allowing others to have their own private time;
- Provide free wireless internet services.
However, Suchomel also acknowledges that, even if the waiting room is enticing, another issue is having to wait for long periods of time, creating needless stress. Certainly, this is not taking them down a path of health and healing.
Furthermore, it’s easy for a patient to deduce that their time is less important and less valuable than those who are providing their care.
Perhaps the most interesting idea Suchomel discussed was to eliminate the waiting room entirely and instead enable a patient to move through the system easily and smoothly (and on time) using technology.
A self-serve check-in kiosk can expedite the patient’s journey—-or a notice sent to staffwhen the patient arrives. That way they could be greeted at the door, their file in hand, and escorted to an exam room which would avoid sitting in a waiting room.
Another alternative could be that a patient would be notified at home via a smart-phone app just how long they would have to wait, so they could time their arrival accordingly.
I don’t think the goal is to eliminate waiting rooms altogether, but to provide a way to eliminate as much stress as possible. Integrating a combination of a pleasant waiting room environment along with some simple, useful technology may make the difference. Then the anxiety of waiting around may become a thing of the past.