Winning strategies for waiting rooms

Herman Miller Australia

Friday, 20 April, 2018

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The first thing most patients do in a healthcare setting is to wait. The number of minutes (or hours) depends on the situation, but the average time patients spend waiting to see their providers is 22 minutes. Until recently, researchers have rarely focused their attention on this part of the healthcare experience, but Herman Miller has begun studying the ways people wait to improve the process for patients, visitors, and the professionals who interact with them.

Why should we be interested in waiting?

Whenever patients are forced to wait, that experience influences their perception of quality of care. As public zones where people with illnesses gather, waiting rooms are sometimes seen as places where germs abound. This impression can create a sense of discomfort and urgency to leave the space as soon as possible—making it more difficult to tolerate service delays, errors, and inefficiencies—and lowering patient expectations.

Not surprisingly, research has shown that as wait time goes up, patient satisfaction goes down. Those who waited five minutes or less expressed 95.4 percent satisfaction with their experience, and satisfaction dropped steadily along with wait time, all the way down to just 80.4 percent satisfaction for those who waited more than 30 minutes. One study even suggested that perceived wait time is a more compelling indicator of patient satisfaction than actual wait time. A wait that “feels” long due to crowded, noisy surroundings or a lack of positive distractions like art, aquariums, or windows can lower satisfaction scores even more. This suggests that focusing on the emotion-related component of waiting may be an important part of improving the patient experience.

How can we improve the experience of waiting?

From the environment to the way we monitor lines, there are many ways to make waiting more compatible with people’s wants and needs.

Consider the furniture.

1. Does it fit the bodies of the people who are using it?

We can make waiting rooms more inclusive by providing seating that accommodates everyone who’s likely to use it.

2. Does it make people feel comfortable?

Naturally, furniture in waiting areas should support the people who use it, encouraging healthy postures and providing long-lasting comfort. However, helping patients feel comfortable in their surroundings goes deeper than ergonomic design. Choosing furniture that is designed to withstand high-traffic environments without showing wear and tear that would detract from aesthetics or comfort long after the furniture is installed.

3. Does the furniture support all of the different types of groups and postures in the waiting room?

Due to the diversity of individuals, illnesses, and family groupings, there is no single seat or seating configuration that will work for everyone who visits a waiting area. Furthermore, seating arrangements with closely packed chairs and no personal space could be expected to increase stress and anxiety and perceived waiting time.

4. Does the furniture allow people to do what they want while they wait?

In one study of a waiting room, the most common behaviours were getting out of a seat, talking, watching TV, watching other people, talking on cell phones, and dozing. Eating, drinking, and using a laptop were also observed. Another study identified several activities that functioned as positive distractions during the wait, including mobile devices, artwork, educational materials, views to the outdoors, TV programming and electronic monitors to inform patients about waiting time.

These observations suggest that an ideal waiting area should provide conversational groupings, charging stations for mobile devices, places to watch TV, and tables between or near seating to hold food and drink.

Appropriate furniture alone is just one of the keys to creating a positive environment. The arrangement of the furniture and design of the space can also enhance the experience.

Florabella: Lounge Seating, just one of our waiting room solutions

Style, comfort, and ease of cleaning share top billing with the Florabella lounge seating collection. The contoured seat and back are comfortable for a wide range of users, and a continuous wipe-out gap around the seat allows thorough and easy cleaning. An internal steel structure and replaceable components ensure lasting performance in demanding healthcare environments.

MicrobeCare: Anti-microbial Solution to stop the spread of Bacteria in waiting room environments.

MicrobeCare is an anti-microbial treatment that minimises the spread of bacteria, fungi, algae and yeast on a wide variety of Herman Miller products. It kills 99.99% of microbes and prevents microbe mutation. MicrobeCare is safe and has recorded proven results in highly sensitive healthcare environments.

For more information contact Herman Miller Healthcare:

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