Your dental waiting room isn’t just a holding place for patients to sit as they wait for their appointment. It’s the place where patients begin their entire experience with your office, and it plays an important role in how patients perceive your practice.
A dentist’s waiting room shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought or an extension of the parking lot. It should be carefully shaped to start patients off on the right foot and begin to build a positive impression of your treatment.
Here are a few reasons why the waiting area of a dental office matters and how you can make improvements that will raise confidence in your entire practice.
Cater To Your Target Audience
Before you can customize something for a group of people, you need to know who the people are. You need to identify their key characteristics so you can shape the experience to match their needs, wants, and preferences.
Before you update your dental waiting room, take some time to define your target audience. List the following characteristics of your ideal patient:
- Income level
- Education level
- Marital or family status
- Ethnic background
Use the answers to create a persona that you can imagine sitting in your waiting room. This mental picture will help you as you make changes to the space. For example, the choices you make will be different if your dental practice caters to families and children or if it targets high-income professionals.
Use this persona to guide the other waiting room upgrades described in this article.
Appeal to the Five Senses
Look around your current waiting room and consider what your atmosphere provides as it relates to the five senses.
- Sight: What is visible and appealing? What is visible and unappealing?
- Sound: Are there annoying noises? Is there an awkward silence? Is the television or overhead music the right volume?
- Feel: How does it feel to sit on the furniture? Is it comfortable? Is it spacious enough to accommodate the number of patients typically waiting at the same time?
- Smell: Does the room smell fresh and clean? Is there a lingering “hospital” smell that needs to be masked?
- Taste: Have you provided anything to quench thirst?
As you go through a sense audit of your waiting room, identify elements that you can make more appealing, inviting, and comfortable for your waiting patients.
Recommended Reading: How to Improve Your Waiting Room By Focusing on the Five Senses
Decrease Perceived Wait Time
While providing a more comfortable, inviting waiting room atmosphere gives patients a better experience, even the most high-end details won’t matter if you keep your patients waiting for too long.
A long, boring wait will lead to unhappy, unsatisfied, and frustrated patients, so you must also provide engaging entertainment in your waiting room.
A study found that digital signage is an effective tool for decreasing perceived patient wait time. Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time so when digital signage is present, a thirty-minute wait feels more like a twenty-minute wait. Utilize this tool to decrease the perceived wait time in your dentist waiting room.
You can upgrade your digital content to impress patients even more. Providing patients with the following types of interactive content can both entertain and assist patients while making their wait-time feel faster.
- Interactive Games: Patients, especially kids, can pass the time more quickly by playing games they can control through interactive screens.
- User-Controlled Content: Allowing patients to choose their own entertainment can also help them stay engaged and interested while they wait.
- Sign-in Kiosks: Kiosks that allow patients to sign in, update their information, schedule new appointments, etc. may not be an entertainment element, but it can still satisfy patients by speeding up the intake process.
Interactive signs and content make the wait time feel shorter and simplify the check-in process. It also helps highlight your practice's commitment to embracing new and innovative technology.
Don’t Be Dated
There could be two red flags hanging in your waiting room, sending a message that your dental practice isn’t keeping up with the times.
- Old advertisements and promotions. When you post time-sensitive content (such as promotions with end-dates or seasonal information), you must have a plan for removing, updating, or revising the content. Promotional signs that are relevant in relation to time must also be updated. Update the design of signs and promotional materials that were created more than a year or two ago.
- Outdated technology. As times change, so must your practice. You can’t keep using the same tools or fail to implement new technologies (such as interactive check-in kiosks, digital signage, patients portals, etc.) if you want to keep up with competitors.
Providing patients with a dated experience will make your practice appear out of touch. It can decrease trust and leave your clients feeling as though you aren’t providing the best care possible. So audit your dental waiting room to see if there are elements, such as old promotions and technology, that are dating your space.
Keep Out Your Competitors
You have the attention of patients in your waiting room. You don’t want to share that influence with one of your competitors. But that is exactly what can happen if you are airing local radio, basic cable or local TV channels in your waiting room.
When you air live television, you cannot control the content that comes on the screen. So if your competitor has paid for an ad on the channel, their ad will be delivered to the audience in your waiting room.
Avoid sharing audience attention with your competitors by:
- Using private label TV to keep your competitors off your television screens. Private Label TV includes a playlist of content and commercials that you control. It keeps out competitors because you control what ads air. It also comes with a bonus. Because you choose the programming, you can select a custom playlist you know will best suit your audience’s taste and demographics.
- Keep your brand front and center using live cable pass through. Unlike private label TV, live cable pass through does not allow you to control the programming. But, it does allow you to control the content that borders the main programming. It adds a frame around the content so your brand is always highlighted and promoted while your audience watches.
Private label TV is the best way to guarantee that competitor ads (or other content that is inappropriate for your audience) will not air in your dental waiting room. But if you are not interested in customizing the entire content experience, a live cable pass through is the best way to keep some control and ownership over the content experience.
Use Content to Ease Fears and Concerns
It’s not uncommon for patients to feel some anxiety and stress while they wait for their appointment at a dental office. So providing some relief for their concerns and fears can provide a better overall experience for patients and staff.
Decreasing the stress of waiting patients will improve their experience. But it will also improve the experience of your staff who will have less anxious patients to work with.
Provide educational and informative digital signage content that can help decrease patient anxiety.
- Offer a step-by-step look at how the appointment will work.
- Explain why certain procedures benefit patient health.
- Use video clips to introduce key staff members, dentists, and hygienists.
Giving patients more information about what to expect during their appointment can help alleviate concerns and calm anxieties patients may have.
Update Your Dental Waiting Room to Improve Overall Patient Experience
It’s easy to look at your waiting room and believe that what you have is good enough. But you don’t want your patient’s first impression of your office to be “good enough.”
Implement these upgrades to your waiting room and improve your patient's overall experience so they are impressed from the moment they enter your office.
Want even more ideas for how you can improve your waiting room and patient experience? Download our latest ebook, 2017 Guide to Outpatient Customer Experience.