November 30, 2023

Patient-Centric Doctor's Waiting Room Ideas

No one likes waiting. 

Some hate waiting so much that they’ll pay someone else to do it. Unfortunately, hiring someone to wait for you in the doctor’s waiting room probably wouldn’t fly in most clinics.

Waiting for the doctor can be equal parts boring and stress-inducing. Consultation anticipation carries over into the doctor’s office. Before you know it, a stressful environment manifests itself before the doctor says, “How can I help you today?”

In a time where shopping around for medical services is easier than ever, you want your medical centre to be known for the experience it delivers to every patient. And this experience starts in the waiting room. Keep reading to learn how to design a waiting room that patients don’t mind (a maybe look forward to) waiting in.

Solving Problems With Good Design

Using design psychology, you can play around with the sense of passing time; tapping into what your patients are feeling in the moment. 

Take this interesting story about elevators for example.

Occupants in a multistoried New York office building were fed up with elevator wait times during peak hours. A few had banned together and threatened to break their lease. Building managers got together with expert architects to find a solution. 

Well, there wasn’t one. The building was too old to reengineer. And the costs of creating and installing a new elevator system were too exorbitant at the time.

The manager ditched the experts and reached out to his staff for ideas. One young man on the staff realised something. Waiting a few short minutes isn’t a time issue. It’s a boredom issue. He suggested installing mirrors in the elevator waiting areas. Those waiting could look at each other, themselves, their outfits, and appearances without it appearing intentional. 

Not long after the mirrors were installed, complaints stopped entirely. And now mirrors are a common feature in elevator waiting areas.

When it comes to creating a calm, comfortable waiting room, it’s all about managing emotions. Not wait times.

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Waiting Room Layout

Reception desks should be an easily visible focal point for patients upon entering your medical centre. In the most ideal scenario, receptionists should be able to see all patients in the waiting room in the rare case that a patient falls ill or needs immediate medical attention.

While reception hubs should be centralised and visible, there should be adequate space between waiting areas and reception. This gives patients a sense of privacy when sharing contact details and other personal medical information.

Install Active Furniture That’s Comfortable

Imagine a family of four arriving to a partially full waiting room. There are enough seats for everyone, yet each family will have to sit solo. The seating can’t be rearranged, as it’s bolted into rows of chairs partially filled by other waiting patients.

What can the family do? Sit separately? Congregate around one chair and take turns? If the kids are sick, antsy, or energetic, neither of these options are ideal. 

Every patient that walks into your practice is experiencing something different. Some are travelling to the medical centre alone. Some could be travelling with a partner or even children. When groups want to sit together or need to sit together, active furniture allows patients to rearrange seating to accommodate their needs. If space allows, prearrange seating to accommodate different visitor sizes (singles, couples, families, etc.) for added privacy.

Furniture should not only be versatile but comfortable. Cheap furnishings are noticeable and feeling uncomfortable could further exacerbate the sense of time passing slowly for sick patients.

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Streamline Waiting Room Workflow With Technology

Check-in forms—especially for new patients—can take a significant amount of time to fill out. And if a patient arrives just on time or a few minutes late, check-in can prolong their wait, creating more irritability and stress. Written forms also create an unnecessary administrative step for busy receptionists, who then have to transfer this information to a secure database. 

To circumvent this time-consuming process, consider installing a check-in kiosk. Like in airports, check-in kiosks collect all necessary patient information, eliminating a number of outdated, environmentally unfriendly tasks that steal time from your staff (e.g. data entry, document scanning, paper shredding). 

Check-in kiosks can also be used to collect social determinants of health (SDOH) data privately and securely. Understanding the socioeconomic background of patients (including their food security) could make a significant impact on the type of care your team provides.

Embrace The Needs of a Modern Patient

Think about the typical patient that enters your clinic. How old are they? Do they visit alone or accompanied by someone? What’s their income? What do they do for a living?

With these things in mind, consider what features and functions would best cater to their needs while in the waiting room.

For example, if your typical patient is someone who’s always on the go and doesn’t work in a traditional office setting, they would greatly appreciate a space that provides phone charging stations and free Wi-Fi.

Maybe your patient is working from home and watching the kids too. Children’s games and entertainment will definitely make the time go faster. But have ever thought about adding a work desk for those parents with demanding work schedules?

What if you run a walk-in urgent care clinic? Install a screen displaying the average wait time to see the doctor. This could give patients much-needed clarity about when they’ll be seen.

Lastly, unexpected amenities can elevate the patient experience and perception they have on the quality of care they will be receiving. Complimentary drinks (tea, coffee, juice) and healthy snacks create a sense of calm. Reclining chairs further invite patients to relax, removing the stressful anticipation a doctor’s appointment could carry.

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Essential Doctor’s Waiting Room Inclusions

Outside of the trending ideas above, it goes without saying the following features are essential within your waiting room fitout design.


It’s simple and necessary to your build. Your medical centre should be accessible and the waiting room should have enough space to move a wheelchair around comfortably.


Wherever there is an exchange of information, there must be privacy. Instrumental or pop music can drone out medical centre conversations in consultation rooms. Consider installing sound-dampening partitions along your reception desk as well.


For bigger medical centres this is an essential design element. Wayfinding turns a medical centre into a navigable map for patients. It involves the use of differing patterns and colours on walls, floors, or both to differentiate between various locations within a centre. Wayfinding also works to accommodate people with various disabilities (e.g. tactile flooring for blind patients).

Greenery & Natural Elements

While not as essential as others on this list, plants and natural lighting are known to have a calming effect. When these elements can’t be incorporated naturally, smart design can recreate this feeling through natural-like lighting fixtures and green, earthy tones in the furniture, walls, and other areas.

Canopy Fitouts has decades of experience across medical fitouts, and we can work with you to bring these essential elements to life and within building code.

Create the Ideal Doctor’s Waiting Room

Occupied time feels shorter than time spent waiting and doing nothing else

Doctor’s waiting room design should work to reduce stress levels and encourage calm through moments of occupied time.

Want to create a strong first impression within your medical or wellness centre? Canopy Fitouts can help. We have years of experience in the dental and medical fitout industry and can work with you to create a design that is fresh, welcoming, and functional. 

If you have any specific questions or are ready to get started on your medical fitout, speak with our knowledgeable team today. Initial consultations are free and fully transparent.