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In the past, practitioners in the healthcare field have relied on professional referrals as well as insurance providers for incoming patients. However, the way in which medical practices are receiving and keeping new patients is changing. The causes can be attributed to a few key factors.
First, an overall consumer mistrust in authoritative figures has been a result of major political events such as the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Clinton administration; ultimately teaching consumers not to trust professional sources thought to be in the position of authority.
Secondly, access to the internet containing various medical opinions and information allow consumers to find conflicting or misguided research as well as the misconstrued ability to self-diagnose. The effect of which cause patients to doubt the advice of their doctors or believe their service is not needed.
Finally, the rising trend of consumer driven healthcare puts the cost of medical expenses into the hands of the consumer. This creates patients who are more financially responsible for their choice in physicians and are beginning to take notice of the cost of care compared to the perceived value of care.
As a result, physicians need to cultivate an image as a trusted source and create satisfied patients willing to recommend them if they are to gain a competitive edge in the market.
The Health Research and Education Trust has produced several surveys conducted on “The process by which patients search for and choose physicians" which consistently found that consumers relied more on information provided by family and friends than by professional sources. The report also found that consumers tend to trust judgments based on subjective aspects of care instead of technical aspects of care. This is because patients have the ability to fully understand as well as evaluate feelings, experiences and relationships but lack understanding of the organization and delivery of care. Thus providing the basis of the way quality care is perceived by the consumer and how strongly their perceptions can influence others. Studies have shown the largest contributing factor that sways patient judgment is the perceived quality with emphasis on the doctor-patient relationship.
The shift in patient perceptions of the healthcare industry can be minimized by applying methods used by the hospitality industry. The practice of being hospitable is offering comfort and guidance to the guest. Being hospitable in the service industry, where choice is relevant and cost is evaluated, is selling quality along with value that is perceived and recognized to be better by comparison to the consumer. Brand your practice to become reputable. Familiarity as a result of brand recognition can sway peoples' choices as consumers tend to choose names they recognize. Your brand creates the image of a set of values which the consumer is able to associate with your practice and establish the sense of a relationship.
Visual branding expands to the built environment which should address what matters most to patients; providing a more patient-centered quality atmosphere that the consumer is able to perceive and experience. Confidence can be reinforced to the consumer through the attention to the patients' comfort and the message of the physician’s values conveyed through their visual surroundings.
I've never met anyone excited about a visit to the doctor's office; most people visit the doctor for the prevention of possible or worsening health issues. Walking into your primary doctors office is similar to getting the oil changed in your car, it has to be done to keep it running properly and all you can do is hope the mechanic does not find any major problems.
For specialty doctors, the experience is much different. As a specialty doctor, your patient has already been through at least the first medical exam and has presented with a cause for further investigation or treatment, leaving them concerned and nervous about their condition.
When you enter a mechanics shop you look for clues of reassurance that you’ve entered a place comprised of experienced mechanics who will deal fairly and are capable of providing the services you need. Clues which are derived from certain expectations of what you believe you should encounter during the experience that would tell you this mechanic is genuinely interested in providing quality service as well as ensuring your car is safe to drive. These reassurances give you confidence in your choice and in their diagnoses of your car’s condition.
So what reassurances do patients look for when they first enter your building? They want to know they’ve entered a facility that has the ability and the desire to care for them and that is genuinely concerned with their well-being.
Walking through the door anxious or nervous about the possible outcome of the visit can be heightened by insecurity if your patient has stepped directly into the space of other waiting patients, become disoriented about where to go, or are not reassured or acknowledged in some form.
Space allowance for a welcoming entry with a clear path and way-finding clues to the check-in desk instantly instills security and confidence in the patience’s next move.
Consider that it takes approximately 7-15 seconds to form an opinion about someone upon introduction. In this instance, that someone is your practice. After entering your practice, the next and most important connection the patient will make is the first human interaction.
The person at the counter should be oriented in a way that allows them to immediately look up to make eye contact when a patient enters. The staff should be in full view, unobstructed by a glass window or a counter that has been built too high. They should be accessible to the patient without a bell that needs to be rung for service. If your patient feels they are unwelcomed and are an intrusion on the personal space or work of the staff, it can leave them feeling disgruntled.
The essence of the greeting should convey that they will be taken care of at your establishment. Instant eye contact from staff who are free from obstructions immediately reassures them help is available.
Few people wait with pleasure. The patient has taken time out of their day, either away from work or from their regular routine duties causing worry about what's being left undone while they are stuck in the doctor's waiting room. Worry and excessive waiting can lead to further anxiety and hostility.
Waiting tends to focus one's attention on the details of their surroundings. The way the atmosphere is perceived can enhance already troubled feelings or it can calm them. Colors have been proven to enhance specific feelings which can dramatically change perceptions and behavior.
The surroundings of the waiting room communicate the perception of the doctor's ability to treat and care for the patient. The relevancy of the style of the f urnishings can lead to preconceived expectations. For instance, outdated furniture may subliminally convey the doctor is also outdated on medical matters while trendy extravagant furniture may suggest the doctor is frivolous with fiancés or that the patient is inadequate to receive the doctors services. The use of current furnishings however, let the patient know the doctor is able to responsibly provide the most recent accommodations to comfort their patients.
Care for the patient’s well-being can be displayed through the attention to comfort. Comfort is achieved through the interaction of the patient with the furniture itself and through the arrangement of the furniture with the environment. Placement should be carefully thought out to eliminate stress to the patients as well as capitalize on space.
People generally feel that they are in a healthy environment when there is the presence of natural life such as budding plants, gardens, natural light or swimming fish, conversely, the display of a non-living environment such as plastic or dead plants indicate an inability to survive and be nurtured in that setting. Think about when you walk into a restaurant that provides healthy meals; your expectations of their use of natural and healthy ingredients are directly related to the display or absence of display of the living environment. It’s not a direct thought, it’s a feeling.
Take a moment to sit in your waiting room as if you were a patient. Do this for the length of your average patient wait time.
The experience of your waiting room should produce a sense of comfort and relaxation while reinforcing a feeling of confidence and security in the ability of the practice.
The surroundings should communicate the importance of the patient's comfort, the doctors' ability to make wise decisions, and the nurture of healthy growth. Provisions should be made to occupy the patients time and alleviate stress, disorientation, as well as anxiety.
By: J. Amos 7/28/2011
Specializing in hospitality interior design & branding
Hotels . Resorts . Restaurants . Bars . Spa . Clubhouse . Offices . Retail . Health Care . Tenant Improvements