Considerations For Waiting Room Design

Waiting rooms play a big role in a facility’s first impression with patients and family members. That environment can also be a source of comfort and stress relief or a place where anxiety and agitation rise.

To improve that experience as part of overall patient satisfaction, some healthcare organizations are redesigning those spaces, moving away from rows of chairs and institutional settings to aesthetically pleasing spaces with amenities and multiple seating types to appeal to various preferences. Others have tried to eliminate the experience all together by employing self-rooming for patients or sub-waiting spaces outside individual departments or clinics.

“Getting rid of waiting is proving to be more difficult than expected,” said Mary Lindeman, health and wellness studio manager at CDH Partners Inc. “I think we can turn [waiting] on its head and make it an asset.”

To better understand how people wait and look for ways to improve the setting, Lindeman and colleagues Erin West, health and wellness studio partner, and Libby Laguta, a principal at the firm, conducted a direct observational study of waiting rooms in four different settings: family practice, specialty practice, urgent care, and emergency department. The speakers shared those results during the session, “The Art of Waiting,” at the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in Houston.

During the on-site observations, one researcher recorded each time a seat in a waiting room was sat in and every 15 minutes noted the occupied seats in the layout. Researchers also observed if it was a child, woman, or man who sat in the chair to look for a correlation between gender and seating preference.

The speakers showed time-lapse mapping of each layout and discussed how different seating arrangements, including sociopetal (seating facing into a group) and sociofungal (seating arranged to promote seclusion by facing outwards), impacted seat utilization.