I know the waiting room has been discussed on this blog before, but I want to approach it from a different angle. Your waiting room is the chance for you to make a great impression and own up to the promises made on your website – almost like a first date with someone you met online. Having trouble understanding my analogy? Imagine the following scenario:
Think of your waiting room as a first date
You are browsing around on your online dating profile – in this analogy, you have an online dating profile so just accept it with a smile. You see someone that catches your interest and you’re so impressed you set up a date right away. Mission accomplished! Right?
The next day you walk into the coffee shop for your date and you see someone that looks like the person you made plans with online…but this can’t possibly be them! You can smell this person as soon as you open the door, their hair is unkempt, and their clothes are disheveled. It’s obvious they either don’t understand the importance of a good impression or they just don’t care. Either way, you’re not sticking around to find out so you sneak out before they have the chance to spot you.
What if this was how your patients felt about seeing your waiting room? You don’t want your patients taking one look at your office and shutting the door on your services. From the technology you have (or don’t have) to overall appearances, we want to go over how you can improve your “first date” with your patients.
Creating the right environment
The first step to designing a patient-friendly waiting room is to ask yourself: how do you want your patients to feel upon entering your practice? How you answer this question will dictate your next steps in creating the best waiting area. Do you want your patients to feel calm and relaxed? Maybe you should display nature scenes or a virtual fish tank. Do you want your waiting room to be friendly and engaging? Consider having trivia and fun animations on display. Or maybe you want to create an educational atmosphere in order to make your patients feel better prepared for their appointment. If so, you might want to run a patient education platform or digital signage solution. Whatever feeling you want to invoke, you can’t move forward until you make your goal for the room clear.
Let’s talk tech
Now of course we would like nothing more than for you to decide that Rendia is the waiting room solution for you, but at the end of the day what matters is creating the environment that reflects the kind of care you aim to provide. So after you decide what kind of atmosphere you want for your waiting room, it’s time to get it properly equipped. Now, let’s talk turkey – your hardware.
First and foremost you are going to need a display of some kind. Sadly, that old glass tube you have sitting on a stand isn’t going to cut it anymore. This is where the research comes in. And because we know that you are all very busy, we’re here to help you out! Our personal recommendation is something simple that has all the features you are looking for. We suggest an LED TV monitor that has the correlating ports to whatever input device (we’ll come back to that in the next section) you are using. More often than not this will mean HDMI, but I’d suggest keeping an eye out for monitors that have multiple types of ports because with technology constantly evolving, you don’t want to limit your options. Displayport is becoming more and more popular and could quite possibly overtake HDMI as the industry standard in the future.
One last thing – Smart TVs aren’t the end all be all. A Smart TV for those of you who haven’t already heard of them, are just TVs with the ability to connect to the internet using their own built-in software. It can be convenient if you are looking to take advantage of the specific features that are offered, but more often than not, these are features that you access by connecting a TV to a computer or other internet capable device.
The next thing on your list of necessary technology should be an input device. This is going to vary based on factors such as your current hardware setup, room layout, goals, and budget. Let’s start with the basics: computers. The vast majority of practices have at least a reception computer in their waiting area. If all you are using that computer for is patient check-in then you are missing out on an opportunity to educate, market, or even entertain your guests. If you take the TV monitor in your waiting area and a cord compatible with both the TV and your computer (likely either HDMI or Displayport) then you now have a second screen for this computer!
Another solution that is becoming more and more popular is the ‘Mini-PC’. This is a device not much larger than the size of a thumb drive that packs the punch of a budget, desktop computer. It works by simply plugging into the back of your waiting room display. The Quantum Access is just one example that we use here in our office. The advantages with these devices are cost and size. They are relatively cheap for the flexibility you receive. If you don’t have a setup that can feasibly support a full-sized computer being connected to your waiting room display – due to layout, size, or even just personal preference – then this is a no-brainer solution.
Flying through patient check-ins
We know how busy you are. You know how busy you are. Everyone who calls the office to set an appointment knows how busy you are. It’s easy to get caught up and overlook ways to streamline the waiting process. Speaking of streamlining, who has been to the airport recently? I recently took a trip to Tampa and was greeted at the airport not by a clerk, but by a small kiosk. At first I was a little puzzled, but after a very short introduction, I felt empowered. And let me tell you, that was the fastest I had ever made it to the security checkpoint. I did have to wait for the TSA, but that’s a rant for another time. My question is, why can’t this be done in a waiting room? To which the answer is it can and in fact, it already is!
So again, let’s roll up our sleeves and talk about specifics. We all know how ubiquitous tablets have become, but they can be even more useful when used as check-in devices. Regardless of the EHR that you are using it’s almost guaranteed that they offer a patient portal with the ability to check-in on the tablet itself. This gives technicians, administrators, or receptionists the ability to let the patient feel like they are in control, as well as reduce their burden. This is also an environmentally friendly (as well as cost friendly) approach to making the waiting room more efficient. Less paper, fewer problems!
Location, location, location
How you design your internal layout is crucial to your waiting room’s success. What good is acquiring all this new technology when it’s in a place no one can see it? You have to make sure that displays are a focal point for your guests. This means optimizing the location of your displays to achieve maximum visibility. But remember, there’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of setting up your hardware only to realize your power sources are out of reach.
While I’m on the subject of outlets, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one small convenience that may make a world of difference. Everyone has a smart phone now, and with the busy lifestyles that we lead we often forget our chargers at home. Having a few outlets in the room that have different chargers available can make everyone’s life a little easier. It’s a simple offering that your patients will notice and thank you for doing, and there are inexpensive solutions to ensure no one accidentally walks away with your small investment.
At the end of the day, you want a waiting room you can be proud to show off to patients. From updating your technology to redesigning your appearance, making changes to your waiting area can mean the difference between saying you care about your patients to showing you do. And if you have any questions or would like any recommendations for your specific practice, feel free to contact us today!