We see a lot of children in my family practice. Sometimes all those kids can cause chaos in the waiting room, which annoys other patients and their families. How can we keep everyone occupied so there's a sense of calm in the sitting area?
Dear Not Kidding,
Creating balance in a medical office waiting room can be a challenge because of the assortment of people who gather there. Family practices usually host several dichotomous groups in the same room at the same time, including sick versus well, young versus old, and easygoing versus stressed out.
Here's an innovative way to put your medical expertise to use by viewing your waiting room from a SOAP perspective.
Subjective. Start by asking patients and those who accompany them for honest feedback about their experience in your waiting area. The best way to obtain this information is through a simple questionnaire that includes a 1-10 satisfaction scale and no more than five questions. Allow space for responders to write comments and suggestions. Frame the survey in a positive light by letting participants know you are striving to make improvements and you appreciate their input. Provide them the choice to complete the form anonymously or by name, and then brace yourself for the responses.
Objective. Next, gather real-life information about the state of your waiting room by putting an unbiased observer in the shoes (or in this case, the chairs) of your patients. Since you're not in the position to be an impartial witness, ask a trusted family member, medical student, or friend to occupy the space for an hour or so at different times throughout the day. Have them gather facts by watching the dynamics of the people in your waiting room, according to the setup of the room in its current state. More specifically, seek feedback on these three criteria: activities for all age groups, arrangement of seating, and reverberation of sound.
Assessment. Evaluate the results of the survey and compare them to the evidence gathered by your observer. Look for consistencies that support making changes. If, for example, you see a commonality concerning noise levels based on the proximity of chairs to one another, you'll be able to deduct that rearranging the furniture is a prudent move. You may also receive suggestions like creating a separate area for children, installing a kid-level television, or providing more reading materials.