Why does a hospital have a waiting room?

This question is so important when it comes to Hospitals. Here is why?

It’s affects patient loyalty. Hospitals measure their success through patient loyalty!

After all, no customers no revenue stream! No future patients no future business. One less Hospital.

Hospitals are concerned about their sources of revenue. E.g. payer mix, funding sources, length of stay, number of patient visits, number of infections, patients falls, number of surgeries, number of visits and so on. Expenses are the other part of the equation.

So why would a hospital expend time and energy and resources in having waiting rooms…when they don’t need to. They simply have to work it out!

I am focusing, in this blog, on elective visits’, those that have been scheduled! Although work can be done and has been done on reducing OR and ER wait times too.

Coming from the manufacturing world and entering the passion and intensity of health care the challenge to me was  “ we don’t treat people like widgets here” My challenge back was “Yes we do if we let them sit and wait alone and without customer attention. “

Patients don’t come to hospitals to sit and read a magazine in the wait room or watch a TV with no sound on; anyway it’s always the wrong channel.

To me a waiting room is akin to a warehouse! Manufacturers today, have little if anything in the way of warehouses! Why? They figured it out a long time ago. Doesn’t bring in money!  People don’t pay for what they see as not adding to their experience.

A cost without a return on investment, and worse still not customer/patient attention takes away from the experience.

In any event a waiting room is an expensive storage place!

Lets face it, when you have a waiting room you have to have someone clean it, stock it with coffee, cookies, kit it out with furniture, get those magazines, put in flat screen TV’s. , Flowers etc. You get the picture!

Many hospitals are spending lots of money on “making their wait rooms look like hotel foyers! Now I admit it does contribute to the “aesthetic experience” – not like a hospital!” However… the waiting room?

Wow! Is this money not better spent on treating the patients? Would eliminating the need for waiting areas not reduce costs and overheads?

Lets spend time thinking of improving the REAL experience of the patient!

Focusing on scheduling and process flows (taken from Toyota Manufacturing principles) is the way to go. It can be done and has been done! The ability to look outside of your known comfort zone and seek out what other industries and professions do is fundamental and we need to do it! MORE!

Health Care is all about taking care of patients and their families, (mind, body and spirit). So why let someone wait at your hospital. and ignore them when the probably need reassurance.

I have noted that those that come into the hospital for their elective visits don’t want to wait.

They have a job to go back to, a baby sitter they are paying, they are scared about outcomes, they are afraid of what it costs them, and then on too many an occasion they are left waiting with nobody even saying or asking: How are you? Thanks for coming to our hospital, is there anything I can do for you while…

So lets remember:

  1. Patient Loyalty is Number One, because with this comes the crucial question all Hospitals want to see high scores on “likelihood to recommend!!!”
  2. Most patient satisfaction surveys score lower when there are wait times (which always seem longer when no-one is paying attention to you!)
  3. People come to hospitals in many instances because they have to, not because they want to. (So waiting does not add to a great experience)
  4. Ask the patient! Would they rather have a nice waiting room, or reduced costs and go home earlier, or be seen on time?
  5. Supreme Customer Satisfaction always starts by treating your customer/patient like they want to be treated. (Reverse the Golden Rule- it was never right in the first place)
  6. There is much to be learned from that which happens outside of healthcare.
  7. So get a group of patients and a few others together in a customer relation’s improvement team to work on what the future state experience should look like.

After all we are all customers to someone so lets take care of me!

In the end I will come back and I will tell others to use your hospital, many times over when I have had a great experience. The opposite is also true too when I have a bad experience but we don’t want to go there do we?


April 22nd 2010



About HRMexplorer

Managing Director - Human Capital Europe and USA - My ability is to recognize ingrained assumptions and patterns of operation that aren’t productive, and offer practical, cost-effective and value-based solutions.

Posted on April 25, 2010, in HRMexplorer Blogs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Although the NHS has some good points their customer service can be shocking. It is illustrative of getting a group of highly tallented people together and then managing the whole thing with two tin cans and a piece of string.
    Having started as an Arts Therapist with the NHS and working hard to deliver the best I could for my clients I was utterly shocked once I myself ended up in the system 2 years ago, for what was a relatively simple surgery. I was simply ‘lost’ in the system for 4 days, given medication I was blatantly allergic to 3 times, talked over by demoralised staff as if I wasn’t there and moved so many times I littered the wards with any personal possessions I was unable to grab as they wheeled me away.
    I hope the US manages this better, but sometimes wonder that the larger the circus, the harder it is to keep all the plates spinning.

  2. Thanks! and Yes I do. After all while I was concentrating on the non ER visits it only seems right that patient care experience has to be thought through before they even get to the hospital. Treating everyone as individuals is fundamental

  3. Hospitals want to discourage emergency visits.

    They only want the people who really need them to use them. They don’t want the emerg to replace the family doctor.

    You seem to think that they want to offer equal service to all “customers”.

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