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Five Tips for Creating a Great Waiting Room Experience

Posted by Jason Penrod on Apr 16, 2019

You don’t have to have to spend money on Google ads or mailed flyers to successfully market your practice (though we recommend trying those channels). One impactful way you can promote your practice is by sprucing up your waiting room.

Consider this, either through social media or in person, your physical space is often what provides a new patient’s first impression of your practice. What a patient sees in those initial 10-20 minutes can build or break confidence in your staff and services.

Thankfully, creating a welcoming environment for your patients doesn’t mean you need to relocate your practice or start shopping at the Pottery Barn. We’ve compiled a short list of ways that you can improve your waiting room experience.

Constantly Kondo-ing

If refreshing your waiting room isn’t already built into your budget, there’s a good chance that there are a few items (furniture, decorations, magazines) that are living well past their prime. The condition of your waiting room is a reflection upon the rest of your practice.

If your tables are scuffed up, a patient might wonder about your practice’s attention to detail or sense of care. If your magazines still rank Brangelina amongst its favorite power couples, a patient might question how well you’re keeping your practice up to date.

Try to make a point of keeping your furniture in good condition and replace anything that’s starting to look worn down. At a minimum, your waiting room should be regularly cleaned and tidied. That includes throwing away any old magazines that no longer bring you joy.

Provide the distractions your patients want.

On the topic of magazines, it’s worth mentioning that fewer people read them. From 2007 to 2017, newsstand sales dropped 60%, going from a $4.9 billion industry to a little under $2 billion (Forbes).

While there is a multitude of reasons for this decline, but the most relevant is that 2007 also saw the introduction of the smartphone. Today, your patients are more likely to thumb through Instagram than that issue of Entertainment Weekly.

Try to organize furniture in a way that provides access to power outlets to charge phones and laptops. You can even go a step farther and provide community chargers for your patients to use.

Dialing back the patient literature.

While you're purging your practice’s magazine rack, you might want to address the other dominant literature in your waiting room: treatment pamphlets and flyers. If your waiting room is littered with papers explaining every treatment your practice offers the signal-to-noise ratio is probably too high for your patients to focus on what’s relevant to them.

Try limiting treatment literature to just a few pieces to better its chances of catching a patient’s eye. This is a great opportunity to educate any discretionary treatments your practice offers such as whitening.

Be transparent about wait times.

The single most impactful thing you can do to create a great waiting room experience is to not make your patients wait. It’s important enough that ZocDoc uses wait time as one of the three metrics that patients rank dentists.

Try your best to keep your patient wait time under the national average of 18 minutes (Vitals). If procedures are taking longer than normal and appointments are getting backed up, communicate that to your patients upon arrival and keep them updated.

Find your own way to make patients feel special.

It isn’t a new strategy for dentists to find ways to pamper their patients; dentists have long employed the complementary K-Cup coffee bar in their battle for patient satisfaction. These small touches can go a long way in creating a great waiting room experience but consider ways that you can put your own unique spin on treating patients.

Maybe you’re the practice that stocks La Croix or other popular sugarless drinks in a mini-fridge. Maybe you're the practice known for having a couple of massage chairs set up for waiting patients. Maybe you're the practice known for having Mario Kart running on a waiting room TV.

If you find a way to show your patients a little appreciate that feels unique, that will likely be the main focus of the conversation when patients talk about you. Finding those memorable flourishes are a first step in setting your practice and your brand apart.