How to Design and Decorate a Great Waiting Room

If you ask your patients how they feel about your rheumatology practice’s waiting room, they’ll probably agree: the less time they spend in it, the better. While few people enjoy sitting in a waiting room, there are ways to improve the experience by making your space more enjoyable, comfortable, and visually pleasing. And no—you don’t have to wait for an HGTV special to pluck your practice out of the masses. You can easily give your office a pleasantly professional waiting room makeover with the following tips.

Choose the Right Reception Desk  

While new furniture won’t be in everyone’s budget, updating a few key pieces could make a huge difference. Make sure the reception desk, which is often the first thing patients see and the first place they head, is easy to spot, clean, and welcoming. If possible, don’t hide your front desk staff behind glass—this will make the waiting room seem overly clinical and cold. Most of all, ensure that the desk fits the space you have. Too big and it will seem imposing, too small and it will get lost in the shuffle. If all else fails, a potted plant or bouquet of fresh flowers will bright up this spot.

Provide Comfortable Seating

Figure out how busy your practice is on its busiest day, and make sure there is enough available seating to accommodate that number. Break up the space with some end tables, and avoid placing chairs in such a way that patients will have their back to the door—this makes many people nervous, especially in a place where they already feel vulnerable. A square or U-shaped arrangement is usually a safe bet, as it allows patients to choose their level of interaction with others. Another good idea is to sit in the seats yourself, to accurately gauge how comfortable they are.

Pay Attention to Lighting

Harsh fluorescent lights will make your patients feel as if they’re in a grocery store, or about to be interrogated. Soothe their eyes and their nerves with soft, bright light that feels a bit more homey. Don’t rely only on overhead lights—add some lamps to your end tables as well. Just make sure you don’t go too far in the opposite direction and make your waiting room overly dark. Remember that patients often must read and fill out paperwork, and adequate lighting is essential for such tasks.

Don’t Be Afraid of Décor

It’s the little things that have the biggest impact. If your office is bare bones and devoid of personality, it won’t feel welcoming or interesting, and patients will quickly become bored and restless. Put some art on the walls, buy a pretty patterned rug, and add a good selection of reading material to the tables. You can also include some children’s toys in the corner, or a small coffee station with a Keurig, hot water dispenser, tea bags, and natural sweeteners. Your patients will appreciate these small touches and arrive for the appointments happy and relaxed. What could be better?

We hope these tips help you take your waiting room to the next level. Do you have a space your particularly proud of? If so, share a photo on our Facebook page—we’d love to see it!

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
  • Thanks to all those wonderful people in the NORM Network who respond to emails, offering their advice, experience, time, and support ... I haven't even been a member a full year yet and I am amazed at the dedication of everyone who responds to helping via emails and the NORM Organization itself! I have barely had a chance to explore the resources and I have yet to really dive into requests for help still I am silently learning so much and do occasionally offer what I can! Thank you all!- Cheryl Piambino, Kenneth E. Bresky, DO

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