As patients, we all dread having to see our doctor and of course playing the infamous wait game…It can be the most exhausting and gruesome task ever! As if the unruly wait times weren’t enough there’s the uncomfortable chairs and strangers staring at each other that we have to contend with too! It’s always a treat when the room is packed full of patients and everyone is wedged up next to each other…just awesome! For those of you who don’t have to experience long wait periods, count your blessings and keep your doctor no matter what the costs! We can all agree that waiting to see your doctor is valuable time that can often be wasted. So how to resolve? The good news is that advancements have been made towards patient-centred care to address healthcare needs by looking at things from a patient’s perspective.
These days, medical office interiors are being designed with the doctor and most importantly, the patient in mind. The average patient spends about 90 minutes during a doctor visit but only 20 minutes are actually spent with the doctor. With patients spending a larger portion of their time in the reception area, it’s important to create a comfortable space that will help to reduce anxiety and create a more welcoming environment. Below are some valuable points to consider with your next medical office refresh that will ensure your patients are being well looked after while they wait:
Traffic Flow and Furniture Placement
As with any office environment, the reception area is the focal point. The receptionist is an important resource for all visitors and patients to provide direction, guidance and to answer any preliminary questions. Reception desks should be positioned not far from the entrance so that visitors can easily see where to go to next as they come in. There is nothing worse than showing up for an appointment and having no idea where to go. Immediately, this can be off-putting for the patient and increases anxiety. Once the patient is well informed on where they need to go, foot traffic should flow freely and smoothly without any potential bottlenecks in the process. Always direct patients in a flow that does not make them cross paths with other patients which will avoid any potential patient collisions.
While most clinics and doctor’s offices maximize on seating capacity, recent studies have shown that only 80% of occupied chairs actually have people sitting in them while the remaining chairs held personal items or drinks. Consider proper storage and adequate coat hooks that are easily visible to visitors so they can easily access and not worry about their personal belongings being too far away from them. Thoughtful space planning helps to reduce anxiety as patients wait.
Generally, wait rooms are designed to maximize on patient seating and often with limited space. This provides very little comfort, physically and emotionally. People prefer to be separated from strangers but close to family and friends. Having chairs lined up row by row isn’t the most ideal wait room setting. Instead, create family zones that will allow individuals and their family or friends to support their preferences and behaviours ranging from group conversations to privately engaging with an electronic device to rest on or read.
We all know wait periods can be long but it doesn’t mean that work stops for patients. It is important to consider making outlets easily accessible for patients to charge their mobile devices so they can do work while they wait. Free wifi is a great thing to offer patients and remember to provide the password. Why not use this time to promote your clinic or company? Install flat screen TVs to display information about what you do and who you are. It will help to pass the time.
Healthcare facility managers working together with their designers to understand a patient’s well being and their perspective are becoming an essential ingredient to the success of patient care. By combining perspectives from a patient and healthcare provider, spaces can be designed to promote overall health and well-being partnerships between clinicians, patients and their families and all parties involved which ultimately lead to the delivery of optimal patient-centred care.
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