A waiting room at a medical or dental practice is not merely a place for patients to sit before they are seen, it forms part of the whole healing environment.
Your clinic’s reception area and waiting rooms give patients the first impression of your practice, and the more soothing, welcoming, professional, hygienic and clean these areas are the better.
The quality of waiting areas can even affect your patients’ health outcomes, in terms of providing a sense that you genuinely care about their wellbeing, and of course in reducing the risk that they will catch something while they’re waiting to see a practitioner about something else!
The importance of perception
Some patients will, of course, be more affected by waiting areas than others. A 2007 study written up at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) on patients’ perceptions of waiting room ‘atmospherics’ found that perceptions differed according to gender, with women showing less satisfaction with cleanliness than men, and age, in that older people had higher satisfaction levels than younger.
The time of day also made a difference – waiting areas were seen as brighter and cleaner in the mornings than in the afternoons, which meant morning patients’ perceptions were more positive.
Cringe-worthy waiting room issues
Some of the things that patients in waiting rooms might find disturbing include:
- Crowded rooms, especially if they are full of unwell people coughing and spluttering.
- Grubby fabric seats that look like they haven’t been cleaned in years.
- Untidy and unprofessional reception areas.
- Unwelcoming staff – or even worse, staff that are belittling.
- Fingerprint (or other!) smudges on reception glass or windows.
- Inappropriate reading material, especially if it’s strewn all about.
- Uncomfortable seating – particularly for people suffering physical pain.
- Dirty and messy bathrooms.
- Unpleasant smells.
And so on. You get the picture!
Making your waiting area more patient-friendly
First and foremost, your waiting room should be as clean and hygienic as possible. You may not have the time for this yourself, which is where professional medical centre cleaning services come in. A good service can make sure your clinic is not only visually clean and tidy, but also hygienically safe for patients and staff. Make daily cleaning a priority in your clinic.
Some of the other things you can do include:
- Make sure your reception area is tidy and professional-looking and staff are genuinely welcoming.
- Provide tissues for people to use, and face masks for patients with coughs.
- Consider providing alcohol-based cleansers for patients to use on entry to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Install comfortable seating, and consider layouts for privacy and comfort, such as clusters rather than rows of chairs.
- Use environmentally-friendly materials and products to avoid the risk of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are present in vinyl fabrics and foams.
- Use colour and artwork to create a healing and soothing environment – such as blues and greens for their calming effect, and paintings or photos of natural scenes on the walls. In short – make it a bit home-like rather than just clinical.
- Allow in natural light, or add warm lighting such as OLED (organic LED) if daylight is insufficient.
- Check the waiting area every hour for cleanliness and tidy it up if necessary. Discarded tissues or other mess is not a good look! Bathrooms should also be periodically checked.
- Make sure the indoor temperature is comfortable.
- Other considerations may include soothing music, a water cooler, footstools, tables for people to use, books to read, and outdoor garden areas.
As a medical centre, you are likely to be judged more harshly by clients when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness. So make medical centre cleaning a top priority for your waiting room and your clinic in general, and also examine what other steps you can take to make your practice more welcoming.