BY REED TINSLEY, CPA, CVA, CFP, CHBC
Every medical practice wants to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible in its waiting area, right down to providing amenities that makes the space more appealing if the patient ends up having to endure a wait.
If you overdo it with bells and whistles in your waiting area, however, you run some risks. First, you need to hit that sweet spot between too few and too many amenities for your patient populations. Also, you cannot let anything in the waiting area impede a patient’s ability to move freely about the office.
Use this advice to find the spot where waiting area form and functionality overlap – and most benefit your patient population.
Go Wireless in Waiting Area, But with Caution
Having free Wi-Fi available in the waiting area is a given. There’s more to offering free Wi-Fi than giving patients in the waiting area a passcode, however.
Make sure your office server is on a secure service and separate from your public Wi- Fi. This might cost more, but it’s vital to securing your patient’s protected health information (PHI) and other important practice data. Without securing your office server, you run the risk of a data breach that could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). So for safety’s sake, fork over the cash to separate your free, patient-accessible Wi-Fi from the office server to prevent potential long-term headaches.
Most practices also provide a television and current, updated reading material to increase patient comfort. While opinions vary greatly on whether or not to have a TV in the waiting area, you’ll need to follow certain rules of decorum if you do decide to put one in the space.
A TV can be engaging for patients, and it helps put a noise barrier between the waiting area and the front desk, just make sure the programming is appropriate for a public waiting area.
In this power-hungry society, you should also try to provide a decent number of electrical outlets in the waiting area. Having plenty of plug-ins at the ready will sate all your patients with laptops, phones, and tablets that are low on juice.
Ensure Ease of Mobility in Waiting Area
Amenities are nice, but not at the expense of patient mobility. You’ve overdone it with amenities if patients have difficulty getting to and from the front desk and door. There are several design details you can use to your advantage to make sure that your patients can move freely in your waiting area.
The waiting room should have free-flowing traffic. To facilitate this traffic pattern, I would recommend placing chairs against walls, or chairs back-to-back in the middle of the room. Any arrangement is OK, as long as it does not disrupt the patient’s path to the front desk. The waiting room chairs should be up against the walls, or in some other out of the way spot. Furthermore, end tables can be placed at the end of each row, so there is an open path from the chairs to the check-in desk.
Also, make sure that the waiting area includes a clear, wide path from the door to the check-in desk. The path needs to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.