Disrupting the waiting room

waiting room

“Am I the next patient to be seen?”. Asked endlessly in waiting rooms all over the country, it’s a question born of anxiety, boredom and frustration. As hospital wait times run over time, appointments run late, and patients sit in drab reception areas and hospital queues wondering if they’ve been forgotten, the waiting room experience leaves many patients feeling like just another number.

Your patients are customers; they live in an experience economy of seamless interaction with customer driven companies who can anticipate their every need. A few magazines and a free-to-air TV isn’t going to cut it as a positive waiting room experience when customer demands are on the rise and expectations are in line with other experiences they are having in the Apple store and the like.

The waiting room, by virtue of its name, has negative connotations for patients, and for many this is one of the first interactions they have with your organisation. Progressive healthcare facilities recognise the inherent value in making the waiting area less about waiting and more about adding value to the patient experience.

Bi-directional communication.

The healthcare facilities that have embraced technology to manage their check-in and patient journey processes are transforming the waiting experience. In its simplest form, keeping a patient informed of where they are in the queue via digital signage, helps minimise the anxiety and frustration synonymous with waiting. Remote check-in, personalised push notifications via an app on the patient’s own device to keep them updated on their appointment, delays or where they need to go helps 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 Manager at NEXA, sees patient-centric information as 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 care pathway from the moment the patient arrives, optimises operational efficiency and can drive profitability.

Real life connection.

The waiting room is a crux of the health care customer journey; a confluence of all the internal and external stories that construct a patient’s wider narrative, wants and needs. Your patient’s narrative gives you a rich context that can be leveraged to turn your waiting room experience into one of value.

For example, your patients don’t actually want to be kept waiting. What’s more, they don’t want to feel like they’re sick or being treated for illness — they want to feel like they’re being kept healthy.

Architects and designers at Gensler have used the waiting room to reimagine healthcare with an increased focus on wellness and well-being. They redesigned a busy UCLA Health space in Malibu, USA to marry “convenient state-of-the-art primary care” with hospitality principals to create an environment of clear open circulation, intuitive wayfinding and patient rooms set up to promote staff collaboration, learning and teaching.”.

By transforming the waiting room into a ‘centre of wellness’ — a place where patients can recharge, learn and connect to the community around them — Health Care Professionals can reimagine their role in the patient’s experience and the value they add to it. Communal seating arrangements, offerings of group fitness classes or health education events, and a health resource library are all features that can transform your waiting room into an active hub of community and connectedness.

An inviting space.

Healthcare facility waiting areas can feel very impersonal. The optimised waiting room includes patient focused features designed to influence how a patient feels about their healthcare experience. Spanish design consultancy Fuelfor is leading the charge in rethinking the waiting room:

  • Comfortable seating — Fuelfor proposes a modular seating system with moveable armrests and seating pads, as well as acoustic separators
  • In app entertainment
  • Healthy vending machines — Fuelfor has designed a wellness vending machine designed like a kitchen bench that dispenses apples, water and other nutritious snacks
  • Kid’s entertainment — Experiential tech compnay Richtech has designed and built an interactive floor system to keep kids engaged and happy in the waiting room
  • Personalised welcome boards — could be as simple as a chalkboard with doctor’s names, or could be used as a platform to post inspirational quotes and upcoming activities
  • Live plants
  • Communal tables
  • Mobile phone charge and water stations.

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

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

Getting started

At its heart, good patient experience is comprised of removing friction (pain points) and creating emotional valence. It takes 12 positive experiences to make-up for an unresolved negative one, so here are steps to help you eliminate pain points from your waiting room to ensure 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
  • 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.
  1. Measure the experience.
  • Use the customer effort score, install a suggestions box, or simply talk to your patients
  • Group the recurring pain points in themes. Use those themes to generate solutions.
  1. Identify possible initiatives.
  • Devise initiatives to help overcome pain points or to create more joy in the patient experience
  • Rank the initiatives by giving them a high, medium, low for cost to implement and for impact.
  1. Embed change, iterate or move on.
  • Prior to launching an initiative, be clear on the expected outcome. What customer problem does it solve? Will complaints about waiting times or uncomfortable chairs decrease? When do you expect to see the impact?
  • Deploy the change then review the impact your change has had. Has it worked? By how much? If not, why? Can you tweak something to make it work?
  1. Be vocal.
  • If you systematically show that you’re implementing change with positive results, colleagues and other team members will listen, engage and begin to back your efforts
  • Something as simple as a circulating a monthly email with initiative updates will do the job. It’s important to follow-up with key stakeholders so you’re well positioned for a budget conversation.

If you are interested in enhancing your patients experience from the minute they set foot in your facility then talk to us today.

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