What Do Patients Want At Your Office?

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Primary Blog/What Do Patients Want At Your Office?
Cosmetic Dentistry Smile jpg

What Do Patients Want At Your Office?

When reviewing recent surveys of patients, it was very clear that they had strong opinions about issues related to the
actual appointment with the provider.

One of the findings related to what patients wanted from their providers' offices and staff.

This article will discuss patient's desires at your office appointment before meeting with you. 


Patients have strong opinions about the check-in process. For the most part, they don’t like the way it has always been done at healthcare provider facilities.

Some of their dissatisfaction is a result of their interactions with other industries. When they book a hotel stay, a day or two before, they receive an email asking them to begin, or even complete, the check-in process before physically arriving at the hotel.

So, they want to know why they can’t do so at the healthcare facility.

The reason used to be the fear of HIPAA violations with entering private health information online. That problem has been solved by various software companies.

Therefore, you should accommodate your patients’ desires to complete or nearly complete this process before arriving at your facility. It will also save your staff time and energy.

Patients also don’t like being asked the same questions repeatedly. They want to believe someone is actually reviewing the information they already provided. They spent time entering the “required” information.  Don’t waste their time asking the same questions in person.

Be sure you, your assistants, your nurses, and others on your staff review the information they provided before interacting with them.

Your Staff:

It is especially helpful to patients that your front staff greet them with smiles and a welcoming attitude.

Often, the front desk staff are the least trained, least educated, lowest paid employees at a healthcare facility. That is a shame because they can be so valuable to you.

Some years ago, I attended a customer service seminar at the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World. During this seminar, they took us on a field trip to the parks and the resorts. They made a point to introduce all of us to a “Greeter” at the Yacht Club Resort. He had been at WDW for many years. They valued him and his contribution to the “guests” experience.

He was one of these “never had a bad day”, “always had a smile on his face” type of people. He made you feel better just being around him.

Those types of people are hard to find, but so worth the effort and expense. They lift the spirits of patients the minute the patients enter your door. Some patients come by the office when in the area just to say hello to them.

Their friendliness and optimism are infectious! Do all you can to keep them. They benefit your practice in ways you can’t imagine.

What impressions do your front desk staff leave with your patients?

Are your staff happy, patient, helpful, gracious, and understanding?

Or are they blunt, coarse, impatient, impolite, crabby, and rushed?

This matters to your patients! Make sure it matters enough to you.

The same issues apply to your nurses and assistants.

Your Waiting Room:

Patients also have strong opinions about your waiting room.

With regard to the seating arrangements, patients don’t like to sit close to other patients. They worry about infections. The fact is our society is less interested in close contact these days. So, having small “pods” of chairs with intervening space is a better option than rows of chairs side-by-side.

Warm lighting and green plants are helpful. Natural lighting from windows is helpful.

The TV should NOT be on a news station. The more politically polarized our society has become, one of the last things needed in your office is to have the TV on FOX News when the patient is a CNN viewer, and vice versa.

A sports station may be a better option. The tennis channel, for example. Or the Golf channel. Or Pickleball TV. These are usually benign and don’t evoke strong feelings in your patients.

Make sure the volume on the TV is very low or on zero. Be sure captioning is turned on. That way those who want to watch can still “listen” as well.

You may also offer information about disease processes or your treatments on the TV.

Do you have a “kids play” area in your waiting room? Often Pediatricians do, but what about other providers? Many patients these days bring young children with them to appointments. If you have the space, such an area can be helpful to the parents.

Orthodontists offer adolescent play options which is perfect for their target patients. Such areas also help the parents when waiting.

Also, the types of chairs available has become a big issue. As the population has become more overweight, standard chairs often don’t work well for all patients. Having wider chairs to accommodate heavier patients is helpful. Chairs with no arms are also better for larger patients.

The height of chairs can be an issue. Older patients sometimes find it more difficult to get up from a soft couch or soft chair. Having seating with seat heights higher than average helps this issue.

Overweight patients often can’t lean forward because of their large abdomen. That makes it more difficult to get up from a lower chair. Again, a higher seat height can help.

Patients who have a badly arthritic hip or knee may also have issues. The arthritic joint may be stiff. That may make it more difficult to get their feet underneath them to rise from a low chair. A higher seat height is very helpful.

So, check the chairs in your waiting room. Make changes as needed to accommodate your patients. They will greatly appreciate it!

Wait Times:

It is nearly impossible for a healthcare provider to never run late. But it should not be true that you always run late.

Your patient’s time is just as important as yours.

If you always run late, you should change your clinic appointment template. Add more time to scheduled appointments. Or cut down on the number of appointments. Or stay later with later appointment times. Or start earlier with earlier appointment times.

Patients would rather have a 5:45 PM appointment time with you being on time, than a 5:00 PM appointment time with you running 45 minutes late. One leads to patient irritation and a bad review. The other leads to high patient satisfaction and a great review. Which do you prefer?

If you are running late, have your staff tell the patients so at check-in. If you weren’t running late at the patient check-in, but something held you up, be sure your staff explains that to the waiting patients. Keep them informed. Just knowing cuts down on their frustration.

If you are running late, allow patients to wait in their cars or at a nearby shopping area. Text them when you are ready. That is what restaurants do. You can too!

Also, it is very helpful to utilize sub-waiting rooms. These are smaller waiting rooms “on the other side of the door” that make patients feel they are getting closer to their appointment.

These sub-waiting rooms accommodate perhaps 7-10 patients. This cuts down on congestion in the main waiting room. There can be printed material on health-related topics available there in this sub-waiting room. You may also have a TV with a looping educational video that relates to your healthcare field.

Disney does this very well. At the Disney theme parks, it is expected that rides may often have long wait times. They post the wait times, so people can plan accordingly. They then also employ the sub-waiting room concept. These “holding” areas continue the theme of the ride but make the guest feel he is getting closer to boarding the ride.

A good example of this at WDW is the Soarin’ ride. There is usually a long line. The estimated wait time is posted. There are activities along the course of the wait line to pass the time. You are then brought to a pre-boarding area with roughly 25 other riders. You are shown a video of what to expect on the ride especially as it relates to technical issues of seating, seatbelts, what to do with belongings, etc.

Do you utilize a sub-waiting room? It is very effective at breaking up your patient’s wait time.

This is not an exhaustive list of patient preferences related to your waiting room, but it does cover the main topics.

What is your typical patient’s experience with your waiting room? The more effort you expend in accommodating what your patients want, the more patients you will see, the better your reviews will be, and the greater your revenue will be.

customer1 png

Ben Holt, M.D.

CEO , Healthcare Provider Marketing

Dr. Holt is the CEO of Healthcare Provider Marketing.  He is passionate about both healthcare and marketing.  His goal is to help healthcare providers maximize their revenue through new marketing and business strategies.