Keeping your patients happy and healthy is a complicated pursuit. In modern healthcare, this means leveraging electronic health records and other digital tools to promote efficiency and clarity.
That said, you can make your practice more inviting and personable for your patients in much more straightforward and subtle ways. Promoting comfort and a warm, familiar atmosphere goes a long way toward keeping visitors happy. Likewise, in an era of growing patient choice, a reputation for running a pleasant practice is essential as well.
Consider these helpful tips to ensure your clinic is as inviting and affable as possible:
1. Invest in comfortable furniture
An old chair or uncomfortable couch makes waiting even just a few minutes to see a doctor worse. And unfortunately, patients aren't likely to forget having a sore bottom as they head home from an appointment.
Whether you're revamping a waiting room or starting from scratch, invest in furniture that will be comfortable for your patients. At the same time, it's worth selecting items that will stand up to a bit of wear and tear. Spend time researching the best available choices rather than selecting the first option you see.
2. Fill the walls with art
To make your practice a more inviting place, you want to do what you can to create a more amiable and attractive vibe. Dignity Health found that an easy idea is to decorate exam rooms, reception areas and other places with a bit of artwork. A splash of color is a subtle but useful step to consider, but to really make an impression on your patients, consider selecting pieces that are truly unique and inspiring. You could even try partnering with a local artist to give your space more of a community feel.
Ultimately the right artwork helps your practice set the proper tone. You can further make your space more special by making changes to the lighting or wallpaper. The harsh glow of florescent overhead lights amid an uninspired decor creates a static atmosphere.
3. Bring in some life
You want patients to view your office as a vibrant, enjoyable place. Not only is this idea useful in addressing overall satisfaction, but this is also comforting for patients who are especially distressed or uneasy.
A good idea for creating a calming atmosphere is to bring in a bit of natural decor. Potted plants offer three key benefits. First, they naturally aerate a room and can help make a space feel a bit less stuffy. Secondly, they add aesthetic beauty. But perhaps most important of all, multiple studies have found that plants can promote productivity among office staff and create a sense of calm. Select a few colorful species as well as plants like lavender that give off a pleasant and relaxing smell.
A fish tank is another wonderful choice for your reception area. Watching fish and the gentle noise of running water also have a soothing, idyllic effect. These subtle choices give patients a way to calm down ahead of an otherwise nerve-wracking appointment. Likewise, something like a fish tank can make your practice a bit more special and memorable.
4. Work with your staff
These subtleties matter, and creating an inviting space is an instrumental way to make your visitors feel welcome and satisfied. Unfortunately, these efforts are quickly upended if patients feel that their needs aren't being met in the right ways.
Front desk staff, nurses and doctors are like employees elsewhere in the service industry, and for that reason, taking the time to set standards for customer service is essential. Training and guidelines can make a big difference, as even the most well-intentioned employees might stumble without the right support. And if an uncomfortable chair is a reasonable concern, a patient is surely going to notice if he or she perceives any apathy or disrespect from staff.
Encourage your reception or administrative team to greet every visitor with a smile and a hello. However subtle, these steps can have a lasting impression on patients.
5. Consider the little things
Aside from making your space as comfortable and personable as possible, it makes sense to sweat the details just a little bit. Because once again, patients may take notice if there are obvious signs of carelessness or indifference.
For example, offering magazines and newspapers in your reception area is a common but useful way to make your patients' wait more enjoyable. Outdated reading material, however, can be frustrating to visitors and create a small but real opportunity for a sense of dissatisfaction. This problem is also true if you put out a coffee machine but neglect to keep supplies available or if posted flyers and other materials are noticeably old. As Dr. Arnold Melnick told the American Osteopathic Association, a proactive approach about keeping everything neat and organized is key.
"In a doctor's office, people expect cleanliness, and they expect the reception area to be neat," Melnick said. "And neat means that somebody on the staff should check the waiting room every hour or two to make sure that magazines aren't strewn around, that dirty coffee cups and used tissues aren't left on tables, and that wastebaskets are emptied. A waiting room left alone from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon is going to be a mess."
Addressing issues like these can make a big difference. They show an attention to detail and reinforce your other efforts to make your practice more inviting. Patients may only subconsciously make note of these kind of steps, but will remember anything negative.