A Checklist for Your Medical Practice Waiting Room

November 6, 2012

Don't let your patients judge you by the dusty philodendron sitting in the corner. Use our easy checklist to make sure your waiting room measures up.

Would you say your practice office is a 10? Consistency is the standard we must strive to achieve. Just as it is not good enough for you to get nine of every 10 diagnoses correct, it is not good enough to have positive first impressions of your practice most of the time. Anything less than being a 10 when it comes to first impressions is unacceptable.

Here are some easy fixes to make your office warm and welcoming:

1. Use secret shoppers. Have friends/colleagues/paid secret shoppers call to make appointments with your practice. Ask them to grade the phone calls on three scales - friendliness, professionalism, and organization - and share their suggestions for improvement.

2. Put mirrors on the desksof your phone operators and appointment schedulers. This sounds silly, but folks are more likely to "smile" on the phone if they feel they are being watched.

3. Visit the waiting rooms of other practices. This is a great way to get a comparative feel for your waiting room and may give you some ideas.

4. Consider your magazine subscriptions. Magazines like People and Time tend to get outdated quickly, if they even make it to the waiting room. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a variety of monthly magazines (e.g., Smithsonian) that have a longer shelf life and are less likely to end up in the break room. Topical coffee table books also have a good shelf life.

5. Ask your patients. Most patients will be remarkably candid if you ask them how your practice might improve. Some practices use patient surveys that have questions geared toward these first impression moments of truth.

6. Talk to employees at other practices. If you get the majority of your patients from referring practices, talk to their employees. I have learned that the quality of these relationships between office staffs drives referrals much more than you or I might believe.

* To find out how to create an outstanding first impression with your patients before you even meet them, read "Making a Great First Impression at Your Medical Practice."

Lucien W. Roberts, III, MHA, FACMPE, is vice president of Pulse Systems, Inc., and a former practice administrator. For the past 20 years, he has worked in and consulted with physician practices in areas such as compliance, physician compensation, negotiations, strategic planning, and billing/collections. He can be reached at lroberts@pulseinc.com.