What Does Your Waiting Room Say About You – Perception is Reality

Improving Your Waiting Room

It is vital for practice success that your waiting room conveys the right message about you.  A well thought out space may contribute to the overall satisfaction of patients and staff. The waiting room patient is a captive audience, often for an extended period of time – believe me, they are taking in everything and forming impressions about you –  favourable or not!

So what impressions are you creating? Here are some suggestions to help achieve the perception you want!

Your Colours

Colour is so powerful.  It can change mood, create atmosphere, even alter the perceived size of your space.

Neutrals provide the best results for the majority of your waiting room.  They include creams, whites, greys, blacks and browns. As a general principle, light “neutrals” create a sense of airy, open space, whereas dark choices convey warmth and intimacy.

All neutral can be boring so use splashes of colour to liven up your space – this colour will make the room “pop.” Aim for no more than 10% of your room in strong colour. This colour splash does not have to be achieved via paint either. Soft furnishing such as cushions or art, a couple of dramatic waiting room chairs or simply a well-positioned ornament or vase can achieve the same result. This way you don’t have a huge expense updating your “pop” colour when you have grown tired of it, or it goes out of fashion.

Here is a toning guide to assist you with your colour selection

 Toning Impact
 Calming, relaxing, fresh, restful
 Yellows / oranges
 Energising and uplifting
 Richness, intimacy, sophistication
 Calming, cool, serene

Your lighting

Waiting room lighting is also important to help achieve the atmosphere you want.  Priority number one – ensure your lighting is functional. Can patients and staff easily and safely navigate around the space?

Have you considered glare? Often lights that are positioned too high create glare.  Sit in your waiting room – is glare a problem?

A warm white light is the best choice to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. Lamps may also be appropriate for your specialty.  They can create feelings of softness and intimacy.  Just ensure that hot globes from lamps are out of reach!

Your Clinical Info

Don’t overdo it in the waiting room to the point that patients may feel stressed and scared.  Some information is fine. A few well-placed brochures should suffice.  Additional clinical information can be positioned in consulting and treatment rooms – patients expect to see this information upon entering these rooms.

What can the patient hear?

What do your patients hear when they are waiting?  Ensure your staff are trained to be confidential with patient information – don’t ask patients the reason for their visit in earshot of the waiting room.  This can be embarrassing indeed!

If voices can be heard from consulting rooms “white noise” systems can help.  They provide a low volume sound that muddles conversation so that waiting room patients cannot decipher what is being said.  Unfortunately such systems can be expensive.

Alternatively, use lots of soft furnishing such as cushions, fabric art and non-slip rugs to absorb sound.  Music may also be played.

Your Chairs

Are they comfortable and suitable for your patient demographic?  Always ensure you provide some chairs with arms and some chairs with wider seats to accommodate larger patients.  Patients dislike chairs that are too soft – generally speaking attending the doctor can be a stressful experience so they don’t want to “lounge”, patients just want to feel comfortable.

Ensure chairs are not too low, proving difficult to exit for elderly, disabled or pregnant patients.  If choosing a couch,  make sure that people do not collapse into each other – especially awkward if they are strangers!


Clutter creates a perception of chaos not calm.  Remove all unnecessary items and ensure your magazines are in good order and tidy. Spaces free from clutter appear larger.  If your waiting room is orderly patients will begin to form the impression that your services “are in order” too!

Convey the message that cleanliness matters

If you have toys, let patients know they are regularly washed via a small sign.  Consider providing anti-bacterial wipes too!  Your patients will appreciate it and will perceive your practice as hygienic and clinically sound – from consultation right through to surgery.

Look modern and up to date

Ensure magazines are not ancient!  Consider providing Wifi facilities for your patient use.  Look at your practice literature – how current is it?  If your waiting room features appear up to date  – so will you!

So to conclude I leave you with the words of Tim Lahaye,

“A man’s perception can soon become his reality.”

Be in charge of your story.  Be in charge of your practice.

– Caroline Chaplin, Director of RWS

How do I get started with RWS?

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Level 1, 539 Riversdale Rd
Camberwell VIC 3124
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  • NSW: Martin Place, Sydney
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