When designing healthcare spaces, such as hospitals and medical offices, most of the design effort is focused on the actual practice areas and exam rooms. While those areas are important, a patient or visitor’s first impression comes from the reception and waiting area. Money.com reports that each time a patient visits a physician, they spend an average of 87 minutes at the office, but only 20 minutes actually with the doctor. When it comes to wait time in hospital emergency facilities, the average time from arrival to discharge or admission is two hours and fifteen minutes, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians,
With patients and visitors spending a large portion of their visit in reception areas, it’s important they have a comfortable and welcoming space for them to wait. An article published in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management found there was a direct correlation between waiting room experiences and perceived overall quality of healthcare. Visitors who were welcomed to vibrant, open areas were more likely to feel they had a higher quality of care than those with darker, closed rooms.
When designing a reception area, what elements are most important to incorporate? A space that elicits a calm and soothing energy helps reduce patient and visitor anxiety. Positive distractions, especially colors and images of nature, tend to help enhance the experience. Healthcare Design Magazine found that television is a common source of entertainment for many patients and visitors, but others enjoy a quieter waiting area. A design that incorporates both a space with TVs and an additional quiet area with reading material is the best way to accommodate all types of desired waiting room experiences.
Elements of seating and spacing are also fundamental characteristics of a quality waiting room. It’s important to provide areas where families can sit together and talk, but also have chairs and couches for people who prefer a more private setting. Chairs should include arms and vary in height. The arms make it easier for visitors to get in and out of the chair and the variance in height make the space more comfortable for people of all sizes.
By focusing energy and attention on a practice’s reception area and waiting room, designers can create a more positive customer experience and raise the energy level of employees. A positive interaction and experience while waiting goes a long way in regards to a satisfactory overall experience.