The waiting room can be a stressful place. Worried patients experience it as a place of anxiety, imagining a colorful sequence of worst-case scenarios. Patients on a schedule experience frustration as they watch the minutes tick by. Active children squirm in boredom. More than we’d like to admit, the surroundings don’t help. Waiting room designs too often feature creaking plastic chairs, washed out generic landscape prints, and grim industrial carpeting. Your waiting room sees a lot of traffic, and durability and utilitarian concerns need to be addressed, of course. But the aesthetics of a place matter. When you’re not feeling well, they matter even more.
Don’t be afraid of color
Wall-to-wall beige is depressing. That institutional shade of green is bleak. That harsh gray floor covering might hide dirt, but it’s dreary in the extreme. What we’re trying to say is that taste and style aren’t just for private spaces, and the traditional design shortcuts that many practices take are doing their patients a disservice. Take another look at your waiting room and try to imagine it as a space you’d be happy to have in your own home. You can go for cool, soothing tones of blue, warm earthy shades of terracotta and brick, or stay with a crisp white but paint just one wall with a pop of bright color. There are no rules that dictate how you should paint your waiting room, so have the courage to be a bit adventurous in your interior design. Once you’ve decided on a color for the walls, don’t stop there. Add real interest and more color to your decor and furnishings. Invest in some original local art-it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Install a tropical fish-tank full of flashing specimens. Choose office plants with vibrant foliage. Think about lighting: harsh overheads or flickering lamps aren’t doing the room any favors. Take advantage of natural light wherever possible, and introduce daylight bulbs in any dark corners.
Re-think the Muzak
Panpipes have their place, but a never-ending diet of canned music can be oppressive. A short loop of songs or a blaring radio station and its shout-y ads are just as bad. Be aware that the wrong waiting room soundtrack can be torture to your captive audience. Musical taste is extremely subjective, so when practices choose waiting room music, they tend to err on the safe side, which can be extremely bland. It’s true that whatever music you choose should be on the quiet side, but consider choosing a wider variety of styles, influenced by your own favorites, and shuffle your selections often. Silence is also an under-appreciated option.
The patient experience begins long before they hop up on the exam table, and making your patients feel cared for should extend to making your waiting room as comfortable, attractive, and pleasant as possible. If you allocate time and resources to refurbishing and injecting your waiting room with a bit of personal style, your patients will notice.