First impressions matter. When a patient or loved one arrives at a doctor’s office reception and waiting area, what message does it convey?
Does it make visitors feel at ease or anxious? Can they easily understand where they need to go or is the layout confusing? Is the atmosphere pleasant and welcoming or cold and uncomfortable?
Something as seemingly simple as a hospital waiting room’s design can help set the mood for patients, and every healthcare provider can attest to the role that attitude plays in health outcomes.
When constructing or redesigning a hospital or clinic, consider the following waiting room ideas and design tips.
GET THE GUIDE: Hospital Construction Planning Guide
The design principle of wayfinding goes beyond providing adequate signage to help direct patients where to go, although that is part of it. Wayfinding is also a consideration in a building’s floor plan and decor.
Entryways and corridors can be laid out in a way that intuitively guides patients, as can flooring designs, wallcoverings, patterns, and lighting. Consider complementary color schemes to differentiate one wing from another to further assist visitors. Proper wayfinding is a first step in eliminating confusion when anxieties may already run high.
Temporary screening areas for taking a visitor’s temperature and asking about recent health conditions became commonplace during the pandemic. Many healthcare facilities are making the change permanent by including screening areas in their floor plans. They’re typically located adjacent to waiting areas near an entryway and must have adequate technology, furnishings, and power.
Key factors in designing these stations are ensuring patient privacy to comply with HIPAA laws and also reducing bottlenecks in traffic flow. These stations also serve as a first stop for visitors, so designing them to feel welcoming is a priority.
Waiting rooms must be easily accessible, with self-opening double doors, unobstructed pathways, and tables and chairs with clearance for those with mobility aids. When designing an accessible waiting room, however, there’s more to consider than ADA compliance.
Place reception desks in a clear line of sight from the entry, and install restrooms within close proximity so that guests aren’t wandering through hallways in search of them. When applicable, consider placing other facilities nearer the waiting area, such as a gift shop, eating area, or vending machine with healthy snacks. Offering conveniences within close proximity can be a comfort to those who are concerned they might miss the doctor when he or she comes out to inform them how a loved one is doing.
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Comfortable and Attractive Seating
Traditionally, healthcare waiting rooms had long rows of identical chairs. They were functional but offered little in the way of comfort or aesthetics. The new approach is to provide smaller groupings of comfortable seating, offering more privacy and distance in between patients. Materials and finishes are durable and easy to clean, often with antimicrobial protections.
Also trending is the selection of a variety of seating types, such as high-back chairs, loveseats, benches, or bariatric chairs to accommodate a range of individuals. Not only is it visually appealing, it also offers functionality. All seating should be in clear view of the reception desk. This helps assure patients that they haven’t been “forgotten” or missed and, if someone experiences a health emergency, they’ll be within sight of staff who can respond quickly.
Design trends in hospital or clinic waiting rooms mirror those in other commercial buildings. They are moving away from cold and uninviting atmospheres and embracing homelike environments that can help patients relax before their appointments or procedures.
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Among the design trends are natural elements like light or rustic wood finishes, textured upholstery, soft lighting, and warmer colors and patterns. As noted, seating may closely resemble residential furnishings but with the added durability and cleanability necessary in a commercial setting.
Flooring doesn’t have to be boring either. Today’s luxury vinyl tile is available in an endless array of colors and designs, able to mimic wood, tile, stone, and other materials. Additional types of commercial healthcare flooring may also be considered for entryways and corridors.
Waiting rooms are an ideal space to showcase local artists through paintings, murals, or sculptures and are no longer an afterthought. At times, a commissioned piece may serve as the centerpiece of a facility, with its architecture and other elements designed around it. Being purposeful about placing local artwork in a waiting area can help add life to what might otherwise be considered a sterile or stark setting.
Rural healthcare facilities, in particular, benefit from displaying artwork that reflects their community and its values. Creating an affinity with visitors and demonstrating local pride can further help patients feel more at home. It just might be the pleasant distraction a patient needs to focus or meditate on prior to an appointment.
Current hospital waiting room design trends create a positive atmosphere, helping to minimize the anxiety and apprehension that patients and their loved ones may feel. Most hospital or healthcare clinic construction projects involve much more than just the waiting area, however, and need to work within the facility’s master plan. Explore more ideas and insights with our Healthcare Construction Planning Guide below, and contact the team of construction and furniture solutions experts at Samuels Group to talk through your facility needs.
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