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5 ideas to make waiting more pleasant at your healthcare practice

A few small adjustments to your waiting room can help boost patient retention and even drive practice growth.

When patients visit their healthcare provider, it’s almost inevitable they’ll spend some time in the waiting room. In fact, 85 percent of people wait 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment to see their provider, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Sequence, a Salesforce company.

Reducing wait time should be a main priority at your practice, because it’s unlikely you’ll ever eliminate it entirely. Here’s a look at several ways to boost patient retention by making your waiting room as pleasant as possible.

1. Create a warm, inviting space

No one wants to spend time a in waiting room filled with uncomfortable furniture and fluorescent lighting. Promote practice growth by transforming your space into a cozy, relaxing spot that’s truly enjoyable.

Invest in comfortable couches and chairs, use warm lighting to create a more welcoming environment, and stream spa-like music through the sound system to give patients a sense of Zen. If people have to wait for their appointment, giving them a soothing area to unwind will feel more like a break from their hectic day and less like an inconvenience.

Read: 6 ways to ensure patients love your waiting room

2. Ensure staff provides good customer service

Your staff can largely enhance the waiting room experience by being kind and attentive. This includes warmly greeting patients upon arrival, updating them on wait times, and engaging them in pleasant conversation.

Of course, they won’t have the capacity to be present for patients if they’re busy with burdensome administrative duties. Automating tasks that don’t require a human touch, such as sending appointment reminders and asking patients for feedback, gives your team more time to focus on the patients in front of them.

3. Promote productivity

Patients take valuable time out of their day to visit your practice, so sitting in your waiting room doing nothing can feel like a huge waste of time. Think of it from a financial standpoint: The average private sector worker earns $27.24 per hour, as of September 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the patient takes unpaid time away from work for the appointment, every minute they have to wait costs them money.

Encourage patient retention by converting a quiet corner of your waiting room into a work area. Add a few small tables, offer free Wi-Fi, and make sure there are plenty of electric plugs for charging laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Check out: Practice growth software & other tech upgrades your practice needs

4. Offer elevated perks

Having a water cooler in your waiting room is nice, but you can do better than that. Take things up a notch by offering a few extras to add a touch of luxury to your space, such as a mini fridge filled with bottled water, complimentary coffee bar, and some healthy snacks to keep hunger at bay.

Rolling out the red carpet for patients will make them feel special and help ease the frustration of having to wait past their scheduled appointment time. This approach can also be a savvy way to grow your practice, because it’s almost certain these luxuries will work their way into both word-of-mouth recommendations and online patient reviews.

More ideas: How to improve the in-office patient experience

5. Designate a kid-friendly area

For obvious reasons, pediatricians’ waiting rooms are all about children, but many parents are forced to bring little ones along to their own appointments. Waiting for their name to be called becomes extra stressful with bored children in tow and no area to separate them from the glaring eyes of other adult patients.

Ease the pressure by turning a corner of your waiting room into a kids’ area. Fill this space with quiet activities for children of a variety of ages to keep them entertained until it’s time for their parent’s appointment. This can be a great new patient marketing strategy, because it will make people with children more comfortable if they have to bring them to appointments.

It’s virtually impossible to see patients as soon as they walk through the door of your practice, but creating an inviting waiting room can boost practice growth. When people are able to spend time in a comfortable space they actually enjoy, they’re less frustrated by the delay.

Is your waiting room up to snuff? Why not ask your patients? Check out the blog post “5 questions doctors should ask to gauge patient satisfaction” for information on how to get started.

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