My friend and highly respected colleague, Dr. Bob Koetting, once said that it was smart to spend money on the things that patients understand. They understand your waiting room more than your exam room. Since the waiting area is strictly for patients - it sends a strong message about how your practice feels about them. It's a great exercise to just sit out there for about 10 minutes - especially during business hours. Look around and listen to the typical sounds of the office. Do you get the message that patients are very important to this office and their comfort is paramount? Or do you get the message that this office has kept expenses to a minimum (meaning profits are more important)?
First, look at the furniture. Chairs should be up to date in appearance, clean, in good condition, comfortable and easy to get out of. Be objective - if they are more than 10 years old, they are probably outdated. They should be tasteful in design and color. Next look at carpeting and walls. New carpeting and paint is not expensive. Consider wallpaper. Keep it neutral and understated.
Find a remedy for annoying sounds that waiting patients can overhear. Like staff members involved in idle, personal chit-chat, or an assistant placing numerous recall or collection phone calls.
Next, consider some perks that make a positive statement:
Pay attention to this very important room. Your office image is worth the investment.
- Subscriptions to unusual magazines, such as Architectural Digest, The New Yorker, Biography, Vanity Fair, etc. -- in additional to the standard ones. We also get USA Today newspaper, which comes by mail on the correct day.
- Provide cable TV, mounted on a wall for all to see. Choose the Weather Channel or CNN, but avoid endless loop commercials for eye care products.
- Install an aquarium. Hire a service or ask for staff volunteers to care for it - but it must be kept spotless!
- Offer self-service coffee and tea, but staff must keep it fresh and clean.
- A clean modern washroom, which is easily accesable.
- Cater to kids with a toy chest and children's books
- There are plenty more creative and innovative ideas out there - from displays of fine art to video pinball games - but you get the idea.
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