Using Design Thinking to Improve the Patient Waiting Experience


Patients and families are spending a long time in overcrowded waiting rooms leading to low patient satisfaction.

Initial Question:

How much larger should our waiting room be?

Fact finding

Collect data through various channels.

  • Patient surveys:
    The waiting room experience is uncomfortable. Patients feel anxious and consider leaving when wait times are long.
  • Quantitative data:
    Review appointment scheduling patterns, identify peak volume times, monitor how many friends and family members come with each patient and determine needed capacity based on current volumes.
  • Qualitative data:
    Patients arrive early for their appointments to complete paperwork, there are not enough chairs for family members and at peak appointment times the waiting room is very noisy.

Assess the jobs to be done

Reframe the question you should answer based on the facts you gathered.

New Question:

How can we reduce the time that patients spend waiting and improve their experience up until they begin their visit/treatment?

Identify opportunities

Review the data, identify potential solutions and draw conclusions about what solutions could work.

  • Review the data, explore how other businesses such as theme parks, restaurants and retailers manage their wait process, identify potential solutions and draw conclusions about what solutions could work.
  • Implement online registration so patients can arrive closer to their appointment time.
  • Offer patients alternatives to sitting in the waiting room:
    • Implement a text messaging system that notifies patients when their room is ready so they can sit in the lobby or cafeteria while waiting.
    • Send patients directly to open exam rooms.
  • Create a better waiting room experience:
    • Offer free wi-fi.
    • Provide games and activities for children.
    • Provide soft distractions (e.g. LED waterless waterfalls) and calming aromas.

Prototype and learn

Try new solutions and continually evaluate success.

  • Pilot text messaging system that alerts patients when their room is ready.
  • Improve preregistration and scheduling so patients can arrive closer to appointment time.
  • Change workflow to "pull to full" so that when people arrive they're placed in exam rooms rather than the waiting room.

By addressing challenges using a design thinking framework, healthcare organizations can create innovative solutions for problems facing their organization today, meet the holistic needs of their patients and position themselves for future success.