5 Ways to Design a Better Waiting Room

David Spence
January 22nd, 2015

Keys to a Comfortable Waiting Room

Place Welcome Signs at the Door

Doctor’s waiting rooms aren’t exactly known for their warmth and personality. To counter the trend of the cold, clinical waiting room, Spanish design company Fuelfor suggests using “welcome boards.”1 These signs could include photographs of the doctors on duty to add a more personal touch. If your hospital offers classes or workshops on wellness, they can also advertise what’s scheduled for the day so patients can attend if they’re interested.

Use Books Instead of Magazines

Though I recently wrote about some possible magazines to include in a waiting room, coffee table books are another possibility. One physician interviewed by TheDO, a website for osteopathic doctors, explained that he preferred books for entertainment in his reception area. “Kids and parents are more respectful of books,” he reasoned, referring to the way magazines often get torn or folded.2 Plus, choosing books over magazines had an additional benefit. Looking at coffee table books about animals like dogs and horses became an opportunity for kids and parents at his office to bond, instead of the latter yelling at the former to behave. Set several books throughout the waiting area, and try rotating them through the seasons.

Decorate with Natural Artwork

If the waiting room doesn’t have much access to natural light, artwork with nature scenes can be a good alternative. According to health care design expert Roger Ulrich, PhD, natural elements have been proven to be powerful tools for helping hospital patients recover. On that note, design blogger Sharon Crockett suggests that nature art in waiting rooms could also have positive effects on patients.3 To achieve this effect, include photographs of regional landscapes on the walls. Or, seek out nature paintings from local artists to make the waiting room feel more relaxed and welcoming.

Offer Free Wi-Fi

Instead of televisions, opt for free Wi-Fi in the waiting room. One study found that patients prefer reading (95 percent) or browsing on their phones (57 percent) over watching television (47 percent) in waiting rooms.4 Give patients the opportunity to entertain themselves as they please without requiring them to use their own cell phone data. This small act of hospitality can go a long way in making their wait more pleasant.

Use a Modular Design

Sometimes, crying babies or rowdy children make a patient’s wait unpleasant and noisy. But it doesn’t have to be. If you design a room that has different areas for different ages, you can ensure that the waiting room remains peaceful and undisturbed. For example, you could have a separate cry room for parents with infants. This room could include a window that looks into the main waiting area so that they don’t feel isolated from the other people there.

A good waiting room needs the right mix of warmth, comfort and hospitality to make it seem less impersonal and sterile. Design the room with the patient in mind, and you can help ensure that from the moment they step through the door, the impression they get is a good one.


1 http://www.fastcodesign.com/1664797/six-ways-to-improve-doctors-waiting-rooms

2 http://thedo.osteopathic.org/2014/05/waiting-rooms-too-can-promote-patient-health/

3 https://designingwaiting.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/positive-distractions-in-the-waiting-room-design-opportunities/

4 http://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/blogs/anne-dinardo/5-design-ideas-healthcare-waiting-rooms>

photo credit: lakewentworth via photopin cc