Visualise – what do patients see in your waiting room?

Photo - Colgate POS

Visualise – what do patients see in your waiting room?

What do your patients do while waiting for you?

Waiting rooms set the tone for any dental practice. I think of some of the practices I’ve attended I have very mixed impressions. From Douglas & Mahrl up a million squeaky stairs next door to the Bristol Hippodrome theatre, to the comfy old leather armchairs of Parkers Dental Practice in Harrogate, to the streamlined efficiency of what is now Harrogate Dental Care, and now the bright cheeriness of {my}dentist in Woodbridge. They all tell you something about your treatment before you even sit in the chair. And it’s inescapable because the person ultimately responsible for your treatment is ultimately responsible for the waiting room.

For example, Mr Parker has a private only practice that is kitted out with the very best equipment. Receptionists and nurses are warm, polite and welcoming. The building is a large semi in a nice part of central Harrogate favouring parking opportunities over flash, but definitely upmarket, and treatment matches the image to a T.

I can’t speak for what Harrogate Dental Care is like now, but when I attended, it was an 8-surgery, NHS only practice on a small industrial estate. The waiting room was constantly packed, sparsely furnished (I think the benches were bolted to the floor), and the tiny reception desk was an outright hive of activity. But the treatment was excellent – just without any frills. Again, you knew what you’d get as soon as you walked through the doors of the new, purpose-built building.

Photo - front of Parkers Dental Harrogate
The front of Parkers Dental in East Parade, Harrogate
Photo - Harrogate Dental Care
Harrogate Dental Care - modern and efficient

So what?

Well, you might well say ‘So What?’ Unfortunately, patients are (for the most part) people. And people come to conclusions based on their initial impressions. So first impressions count – to the extent that a bad or mixed first impression might mean a new patient doesn’t become a regular patient. The ‘So What?’ becomes a business imperative – making a good impression will help you grow your business.

What can I do?

This blog covers some of the same ground as our ‘How good is your marketing?‘ blog, in that how you present your practice is an element of how you create your ‘brand’. So maybe the first thing to start with is to ensure that your logo and business name are prominently displayed, and your decor and the colours of your furniture reflect the colours of your logo.

Personally, I think that your reception desk has a big impact on the way people perceive your practice. It needs to provide a degree of privacy, but it shouldn’t seem like a barrier between patients and the nurses and receptionists there to greet them. Tidiness gives an impression of efficiency, but at the same time, remember it’s a workstation and it, therefore, needs to provide workspace and have to hand everything needed by both staff and patients. For example, plenty of pens is a must – why not have them branded with your logo?

Paperwork is the bane of the lives of both patients and staff. So why not have a touch-screen check-in system (Pearl can help guide you on setup)? And a PearlPad system on a tablet that automates paperwork (such as medical histories and patient information) and gives an accurate impression of the practice being modern and efficient.

Seating is a vital consideration. You need to think about the number of patients you will see each day and the demographics of your patient base.

Photo - Tablet running PearlPad

Is this a high-end private practice seeing a relatively small number of patients each day – in which case Mr Parker’s leather armchairs would be very nice. Or is it a multi-surgery NHS practice with many families on the books – in which case high-density seating is the right answer because nobody wants to have to stand while waiting to see the dentist.

Again, thinking about demographics, do you provide magazines? And if so, what titles? Do they need to be up to date (in which case you need a contract with a distributor) or can they be obtained through donations by staff and patients? If the latter, don’t let them become tatty through age and try to refresh them regularly. Also, if you have many children as patients, do you create a small play area? Or would that alienate older patients who could be made more comfortable by using that space differently?

Video killed the radio star

{my}dentist in Woodbridge has a large television screen in the waiting room. It shows the corporate {my}dentist video feed – a mix of adverts, oral health advice, news, etc. But not every practice is big enough to manage its own TV programming – even if it’s a 20-minute loop. What would your patients like to see on a TV? Or would you rather create a calm, peaceful atmosphere in the waiting room? Maybe play a radio station, or music (make sure you have the appropriate license). How will you manage that sustainably?

There are several Video providers such as MediVision, Envisage and Smilevision. They can provide customised video for you, highlighting treatments and products that you want to promote, and a range of other content options.

Whatever you do, make sure the kit you use is professional and well maintained. Something pulled out the dusty corner of the garage and popped on the side one afternoon, doesn’t usually have the desired effect.

Fish and chips

Well, fish and plants really. Fish tanks look lovely – if they’re clean. Likewise, plants and flowers – if they’re fresh. If you can’t keep them looking great, don’t do it! But again, there are companies to which you can outsource fish tank and foliage maintenance. Think if you need it, if it supports your image, and how much it’s worth. Just make sure you have a long-term plan that is sustainable and isn’t going to get neglected.

Another visual item to consider is wall art. At {my}dentist they display a range of posters promoting services and oral health. But is that what you want in your private practice? Equally, limited edition prints and carefully collected paintings would be an outright liability in a practice catering for a large number of young children. Whatever you chose, display them carefully in people-friendly (by which I mean make sure they can’t mysteriously fall off the wall) framing.

Point of sale

A dental waiting room is NOT a shop. But at the same time, if your hygienist recommends inter-dental brushes, have a display of TePe or ICON brushes available for patients to browse and buy. Toothpaste and brushes from no more than two suppliers would also be good, either in a display integrated to the reception desk or else visually obvious on the patient’s path from surgery to the reception desk.

Patients are reassured by these products being recommended and sold by dental practices, even if they buy once and replace at their local supermarket. But they need to be visible without ramming them down the throat.

Why Pearl

Pearl Dental Software is built on a cloud platform and an architecture that

Photo - Colgate POS
Colgate Point of sale display

makes it easy to integrate existing and future digital dentistry imaging technologies. That includes tablet-based information management systems such as our own PearlPad, and integrated 3rd-party waiting room/treatment information systems such as MEDiVision.

For more information about Pearl Dental Software call us on 0116 275 9995 or email

Chris Webb