For many patients, their first encounter with your hearing care practice begins in the waiting room. It is imperative that their experience be calming, pleasant, and as stress-free as possible. Given that a visit to the doctor for the first (or 10th) time can be fraught with anxiety, what are some ways you can smooth over the rough edges for patients? Here are some tips for helping to ease the inevitable frustrations involved with waiting to see your audiologist.
- Training your front office staff to recognize and address patient frustration due to wait time is critical. According to an article in Audiology Today, front staff should acknowledge patients with a friendly greeting upon arrival. Inviting patients to help themselves to magazines, use the restroom, or have a beverage, also helps patients feel relaxed and comfortable. If you are running behind schedule, front staff should communicate this to your patient and assure them you are aware they are waiting. Apologizing for the delay and thanking clients for their patience also shows that you respect their time. It also helps to diffuse any potential tension.
- Stocking your waiting room with magazines and books that appeal to your practice’s demographic is essential. For example, if you have a pediatric practice, it makes sense to have parenting magazines, children’s books, and toys to help pass the time. For other practices, having a coffeemaker on-hand or a TV playing local news could be enough to occupy clients. In a profile that appeared earlier this year on 4MyHearingBiz, Alison Vega, a Washington-based audiologist, said this about her waiting room philosophy: “We don’t have a cluttered waiting room and I have Hearing Health Network playing on the TV…one patient told me this week it was like going to the spa, coming to her appointment, because she’d come in, have a cup of coffee, and read National Geographic.”
Attention to Appearance
- Having a clean, uncluttered waiting room assures visitors that you’re organized and detail-oriented, reinforcing your competence as a practitioner. As this article on WebPT suggests, it’s important to delineate a clear pathway to your “landing area.” Keeping your waiting room updated with new paint, modern furniture, light fixtures, and flooring will help convey a feeling of freshness. According to an article on PatientPop, a 2009 survey of 205 patients of outpatient clinics found a positive correlation between waiting rooms perceived as more attractive and patient opinions about the quality of care they received, staff interactions, and reduced anxiety levels.
Active Waiting Room
- As PatientPop suggests, make your waiting room an active one by offering free WiFi, individual desks or communal work tables, and charging stations. This can help ease stress for those patients missing work for their appointment. Having iPads on hand—preloaded with newspapers, hearing health information, or magazines—help tech-savvy patients feel more comfortable. In some cases, patients may be able to find out if they qualify for financing through CareCredit, via a quick and easy application on an iPad.
- Being mindful of your waiting room’s layout—including furniture, colors, lighting, and decor—can make all the difference in the world. The BreakRoom Blog recommends choosing comfortable seating that will accommodate patients of varying sizes, ages, and mobility levels, in fabrics that are both durable and easily cleaned. When thinking about paint or decor, reassuring colors such as blue, green, and pink are ideal for doctor’s offices. Harsh fluorescent lighting can evoke a hospital atmosphere, so it’s best to opt for warm or natural light, which can open up the space and connect the room with outdoors.
First Impressions Count
- Connecting with your patients over the phone can be just as important as making a good impression when they walk through the door of your practice. As hearing care industry expert Von Hansen noted in a recent webinar, a potential patient’s first impression of your practice may hinge almost entirely on the skills of your receptionist. Training your receptionist or patient care coordinator (PCC) to appear confident and comfortable with clients on the phone will help your practice be more successful.
By incorporating these tips into your hearing care practice, it’s likely that your patients will take notice and appreciate your attentiveness to their well being. This, in turn, will help secure a strong patient-practitioner relationship in the future.
This content is provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community courtesy of CareCredit, The Hearing Review, Audiology Today, WebPT, PatientPop, and the BreakRoom Blog.