Disrupting the patient waiting room to improve your patients’ experience

Changing the waiting room

Time is very precious.

People today are naturally impatient and don’t like to be kept waiting for long.

“Am I the next patient?” is a common question born from anxiety, boredom and frustration – and this gets asked endlessly in waiting rooms, along with “how’s the wait time?” As hospital wait times go over time, doctor appointments run late and patients sit in drab reception areas wondering if they’ve been forgotten, the waiting room experience leaves many patients feeling like they’re just another number.

This is a significant problem many medical organisations face.

Patients are also customers and they deserve to be treated how any business would treat their clients – with a great experience that they appreciate and tell others about. Having a few magazines and a free-to-air TV on won’t cut it anymore as people’s expectations are changing. Not to mention that they’re probably not feeling well to begin with.

How’s your waiting room experience?

The waiting room, by very virtue of its name, has negative connotations for patients. For many, this is one of the first interactions they have with your clinic and whatever happens in the waiting room affects the general patient experience. The most pressing concern is always the long wait time.

Progressive healthcare facilities recognise the inherent value of making the waiting area less about waiting and more about adding value to the patient experience.

Here’s how to transform your waiting room for the better.

Evolving the concept of a waiting room

The only way to improve a waiting room is to rethink how you and your patients experience it.

For instance, healthcare facilities that have embraced technology to manage their check-in and patient journey processes are transforming the waiting experience for the better.

Keeping a patient informed of where they are in the queue using digital signage helps lessen the anxiety and frustration because it’s better to know you’re progressing in a queue rather than just waiting and unaware.

Certain facilities have even gone above and beyond this, adopting remote check-in systems and personalised notifications that will show up on the patient’s own device so they are kept updated about their appointment. This can reduce the number of people in waiting areas whilst ensuring the patient is ready as soon as the clinician is available to see them.

Katie Bowden, Service Design & Delivery Director at NEXA, sees this patient-centric information approach as a key to driving patient satisfaction through operational excellence.

“Using real-time data across a connected healthcare facility to direct patients, staff and clinicians results in a more harmonious journey from the moment the patient arrives until the end of the consultation. This optimises operational efficiency and drives profitability.”

How to make your waiting room a more inviting space

Medical waiting areas can feel very average.

However, with a few touches, you can turn the waiting room experience from one that people dread into one that creates a welcoming atmosphere, changing how a patient feels about their healthcare from the very start.

One good example is Spanish design consultancy Fuelfor, that led the way in rethinking the waiting room through:

  • Comfortable seating

Fuelfor proposes a modular seating system with moveable armrests and seating pads, as well as acoustic separators.

  • Healthy vending machines

They developed a wellness vending machine designed like a kitchen bench that dispenses apples, water and other nutritious snacks.

  • Kids’ entertainment

Richtech – an experiential tech company – has designed and built an interactive floor system to keep kids engaged and happy while they are in the waiting room.

  • Personalised welcome boards

Signage with the doctors’ names or inspirational quotes and upcoming activities adds an inviting, personal vibe to the room.

  • Other value-adding furniture and decor

If you want to make the waiting room experience more convenient and enjoyable, add plants, communal tables, a fish tank and phone charging stations.

  • Entertainment

A local Victorian Hospital has flipped the waiting experience on its head by inviting buskers to play music for those in the waiting room, artists to host craft sessions, therapy dogs to engage waiting patients and more.

Remember, the simplest improvements can have the biggest effect. After all, Starbucks built an empire by transforming the drab American cafe into a lounge room!

Has this inspired you?

How to curate a great patient experience in the waiting room

At its heart, a good patient experience is comprised of removing friction (pain points) and creating an emotional connection. It takes around 12 positive experiences to make up for an unresolved negative one, so here are five steps to help you eliminate pain points from your waiting room and ensure that your patient journey gets off on the right foot.

  1. Map the patient journey.

Your frontline staff live this journey every day. So ask them to help you map it out as they are the ones who interact the most with your patients. The key here is to identify the actual steps your patients take – from the second they enter your healthcare facility to the moment they leave.

For more information read our blog here on improving the customer journey.

  1. Measure the experience.

You can use the customer effort score, install a suggestions box, collect basic feedback or simply talk to your patients. This way, you’ll have firsthand knowledge of your patients’ experience.

Group the recurring pain points according to the themes and use those to generate solutions. One advantage of identifying issues is that it can guarantee that you’ll come up with the right solutions.

  1. Embed change, iterate or move on.

Prior to launching a waiting room change, be clear on what your expected outcome is. What customer problem does it solve? Will complaints about waiting times or uncomfortable chairs decrease? Set a timeframe on when you expect to see the impact.

  1. Share these changes to get buy-in

If you systematically show that you’re implementing change with positive results, colleagues and other team members will listen, engage and support your efforts.

Something as simple as circulating a monthly email with initiative updates will work well. It’s important to follow up with key stakeholders as well, so you’re well-positioned for budget conversations.

  1. Use the power of technology

In today’s digital age, there are technological innovations that can empower patients to make the waiting room experience work for them.

Here’s how NEXA can help you improve your patients’ waiting room experience for the better.

Upgrade your patient queue management system with NEXA Visit

NEXA Visit offers your patients a virtual queueing option by checking in for their appointment using their mobile phones, even if they are not physically inside the waiting room.

This means that they can queue for their appointment and then go shopping, take their kids to the playground or grab a coffee while they wait, instead of sitting in a chair in the waiting area. They can manage their own waiting experience. NEXA Visit allows you to efficiently manage patient flow and streamline service operations whilst giving your customers a hassle-free visit.

If you are serious about enhancing your patients’ experience, contact us today. Let’s kickstart your journey towards providing the best patient journey with NEXA Visit.

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