When thinking about attracting and retaining patients at your dental practice, a few things likely come to mind: a strong online presence, patient reviews and referrals, and pay-per-click advertising. But one thing to be sure is on your list is a patient-friendly waiting room.
Think of your front office as an extension of your practice branding. Your practice’s brand is what sets it apart from others in your local area. It’s your core identity. As vital as it is to develop your logo, advertising, and website, it’s also important to design a waiting room that reflects your practice’s values and patient experience.
The reception area is part one of a patient’s appointment. And for new patients, it’s the very first impression they receive of your practice. Here are some ideas for your waiting room that will not only enhance the patient experience but also help generate new patients and keep your existing ones coming back.
It Starts with Your Team
First and foremost, your staff play an important role in creating an inviting waiting room, starting with a warm, prompt greeting for every patient. Be sure a team member is always readily available at the front desk – especially during those busy lunch hours – to check in patients and answer questions.
Every practice runs off schedule from time to time. If you notice you’re running behind on appointments, be sure to have a front desk staff member communicate that with patients. Patients will appreciate having a heads up on when they can expect to be seen. For severe delays, have your staff call patients who haven’t arrived yet. Let them know when to come later or reschedule their appointments for another day. For patients already on-site, thank them for their patience with a coffee gift card or complimentary products. It’s a small but thoughtful gesture that can leave a lasting impression.
For many patients, the dental office can be a source of anxiety and frustration. Some people may be nervously awaiting their procedure or rushing to fit in an appointment during their lunch hour. That’s why a comfortable, stress-free atmosphere is essential to providing a pleasant patient experience. And when patients enjoy their experience, they are more likely to return to you in the future.
Keep patients occupied and make their wait time fly by with various forms of entertainment. Consider having outlets available or a charging station so patients can plug in their devices while waiting. Patients will also appreciate having access to your Wi-Fi as well. Hang a sign with the password easily in sight. Furthermore, you may want to keep the television off in your waiting room. It’s difficult to choose one channel or show that all of your patients would enjoy, and the noise can be a distraction for your staff.
For patients who like to “un-plug”, have a variety of the latest magazines available. If you frequently have young patients or patients who bring their children, you may want to set up a designated children's area with quiet games and books.
Colours can play a significant role in affecting people’s behaviours and emotions. Yellow is often recognized as the colour of “happiness”, green the colour of “health” and black the colour “sophistication”.
An all-white waiting room can feel too impersonal and cold. Consider adding subtle colour throughout your front office. What kind of feeling do you want your dental practice to convey? For those looking for a tranquil atmosphere, the American Dental Association states shades of blues and greens to be the best choice. Incorporate soft shades and neutral colours through your waiting room wall colour, furniture, and artwork to give patients a calming feeling right when they walk through your door.
Marketing in the Waiting Room
Use your practice’s waiting room to your advantage! This is the ideal space to subtly gain awareness for your practice’s services, especially elective treatments such as tooth whitening, clear aligners, or sleep apnoea devices. As well as other forms of marketing like instagram marketing for dentists, your waiting room is key. Many dental manufacturers and distributors will offer complimentary or low-cost marketing materials for you to utilise in your practice:
• Posters can be hung on the walls, doors, and in windows.
• Point-of-sale displays and counter cards can be placed at the front desk countertop, strategically placed to be seen by patients when checking in or paying for their treatments.
• Place brochures or postcards on the side tables in the seating area.
• Position floor-length banners in empty, underutilised corners.
Ask your sales consultants what in-office marketing support they have available. They would be more than happy to provide you with useful, eye-catching materials.
While marketing materials are great to incorporate in your front office, be careful of clutter. Too many materials can be overload for patients, and they won’t be able to absorb everything. Instead, place clear acrylic brochure holders in your waiting room and rotate the materials monthly. You can feature a different treatment, promotion, or in-office event each month. Doing so will keep the information fresh for patients every time they come in for an appointment.
Also consider adding monitors in your waiting room, which will help give your practice a high-tech feel. Play short advertising clips for the products you offer. Dental manufacturers or distributors may provide downloadable videos USB flash drives with videos for you to utilise. You can also use monitors to promote specials or play patient education videos.
Comfort is Key
Just like your marketing, advertising, and customer service, your practice’s physical space can be utilised to generate and retain patients. The physical space in your waiting room should feel inviting and spacious. If possible, try not to have your waiting room area in a cramped space. Be sure to have plenty of seating options available for patients. You can create a homely environment by setting up comfortable couches and chairs along with coffee tables and side tables. Be sure to eliminate any clutter – a clean, crisp front office will help put patients at ease too.
A unique idea practices are embracing today are “comfort menus” which allow patients to select items for their appointment that will help put them at ease. This could include items such as a blanket, headphones, choice of music or TV show, or computer-controlled local anaesthesia for a virtually pain-free experience. This will help create a spa-like atmosphere and put nervous patients at ease.
As you can see, there are many ways your waiting room can help positively influence the patient experience and ultimately drive business. Talk to your staff about incorporating some of these ideas into your practice!