By Samantha Hill
My 13-year-old son was recently injured during a baseball game. I immediately received six physician recommendations from friends insisting their doctor was the best; all from different practices and all for different reasons. So, what did I do? I googled each physician and practice. I called to see how quickly I could get an appointment. I verified insurance coverage for each. I even considered how helpful the person on the other end of the phone was. Out of all the great recommendations, I had the option to choose. Healthcare, such a significant, at times life changing decision, is now a retail experience.
And with that experience comes the dreaded waiting rooms and wait times, the unavoidable part of the healthcare process. Research shows that 90 percent of a patient’s time in a facility is waiting. The environment in which a patient is spending 90 percent of their time is just as important as the 10 percent of time they have spent receiving medical care. Waiting directly impacts the opinion of quality of care received.
How can practices create a waiting space that is friendly, productive and safe for patients?
The days of chairs lined up against walls like a bus station are gone. Patients want options. They want to walk in a space and be able to choose to sit where they want. When space planning, I like to create zones of waiting spaces. Zone 1 may have guest chairs lined up against the wall. Zone 2 may have a counter height table so a patient may sit or stand to work on a device. Zone 3 may be lounge seating in a group setting. Zone 4 may be a snack/drink area. All of these zones provide the opportunity for distancing if a patient is more comfortable separated from others. And these options provide a space that may be more suitable for one person or the other.
In that planning, there are additional questions to consider.
How long is the patient or visitor typically waiting in this room? What is the patient type? Will there be children? Is the patient population primarily geriatric? What type of services are rendered here? Is this a practice where easy access chairs or foot rests may be needed?
How many visitors will a patient typically bring? Will they be moved to a sub-waiting area during the transition of care? How many exam or procedure rooms are there? Guidelines recommend two guest chairs per exam or procedure room.
Will there be any type of electronic check-in to plan for?
Access to power can be incorporated into furniture. I always take my laptop when visiting a doctor and always look for a spot with a table nearby so I can work while waiting. We are living in a world where every second of our time counts so I arrive prepared to multi-task.
Seating for a person of size should always be provided. And a love seat won’t do. Weight capacity is not the only consideration. Seat width and arm locations are just as important in accommodating a person of size. Guidelines recommend 10 percent of seating in a waiting room should accommodate a person of size.
ADA compliance should be followed when planning a waiting space. Allowing space that can easily be accessed for patients in wheelchairs. There should always be a check-in area that is wheelchair accessible.
Below are two example waiting spaces of projects recently completed.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss how materiality impacts waiting spaces.
Samantha Hill is in charge of Healthcare Market Development for Interior Elements, which specializes in commercial furnishing.