Improving The Wait

Whether you’re studying nursing in one of Unitek College’s Nursing Programs or studying to become a Medical Assistant in our Medical Assisting Program, there’s one thing every one of your future patients will have in common: the waiting room. And unfortunately, these days the average waiting room isn’t doing your patient satisfaction any favors.

A recent study found that the top complaint of patients had nothing to do with the medical staff, but with the conditions of and time spent in the clinic or hospital waiting room.

“The nearly unanimous consensus is that in terms of impact on patient satisfaction, the waiting room trumps the exam room,” says study co-author Ron Harman King. “Hardly anyone had a beef with the quality of health care received.”

The findings were echoed by a recent Consumer Reports study, which found that while an “overwhelming majority” of patients were “highly satisfied” with their doctor, 24% had a bone to pick with their waiting room experience.

Basically, if you’d like to make your mark at the new job by increasing customer satisfaction, the waiting room is an excellent place to start. And as medical assistants (who interact with patients within the waiting room) or nurses (who often are the first to greet the patient after the waiting room), happier patients go a long way towards making your days a lot less stressful. Naturally, any and all changes to a waiting area will always need to be approved by your clinic or hospital management, but here’s a few suggestions they may find hard to resist.

Comfortable Seating is one of the first ways to improve a waiting area—and not necessarily just softer cushions. Allow patients to customize their experience as much as possible by giving plenty of options—some may prefer sitting as isolated as possible. Others may prefer a communal table. And if we’ve learned anything from movie theaters and airplanes, no one likes to share an armrest.

Give Them Plenty Of Outlets for their phones and tablets, and if your clinic offers free Wi-Fi, make sure the password and connection instructions are clearly displayed. And if possible, make sure there are seating options near your power outlets—no one enjoys sitting on the floor while charging their iPhone.

Keep The Magazines Current. Nothing says “low priority” like a stack of magazines from six years ago. If the headlines are beginning to suggest that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s relationship might be getting rocky, then you’re well overdue for an overhaul. A fresh stock of recent reading material sends the message that you not only care about the people waiting, but that you occasionally visit the waiting room yourself.

Healthy Vending is an idea suggested by marketing firm Smith & Jones, and it makes a lot of sense. A doctor’s office is supposed to encourage a healthy lifestyle, but if the only options in the vending machine are candy and cola, it can feel like a mixed message. Try and stock your machine with healthy snacks, drinks, and even fruits to send a more consistent message.

Make It Personal. Smith & Jones also suggest finding ways to make the waiting area more personal. Maybe not going as far as posting family photos on the wall, but displaying a healthy number of photos or posters showing your doctors and nurses smiling, treating patients, or volunteering sets a positive, familial tone for the visit right from the start.

Keep It Clean. This is the biggie. Most people are already uneasy about waiting rooms—after all, it’s where all the sick people wait, right? A waiting room that’s even slightly dirty or disorganized does nothing to allay these fears, and it makes the wait feel even longer. suggests that because the waiting room gives patients their first impression, that impression should be of a professional, organized business… especially when that business holds their health in its hands.

These are only a handful of suggestions, of course, and the real secret is simply maintaining the mindset of “what can I do to make this experience easier for my patients?” They may not want to be there, but if you can make the experience even a little easier on them, you’ll be amazed at how quickly they’ll respond.

If you’d like more information on enrolling in a Unitek College Nursing or Medical Assisting program, contact us here.