Unpleasant waiting rooms a bigger issue for patients than long wait times

Patients in a hospital waiting room
A new study says an unpleasant waiting room is a top reason patients say they won't return to a healthcare facility. (Getty/SuwanPhoto)

Physician practices may want to reevaluate the state of their waiting rooms, as a new study finds that unpleasant waiting areas are a bigger issue for patients than long wait times.

A new report from Qualtrix found that unpleasant waiting rooms were the single most cited reason that patients said they would stop returning to a healthcare facility, whether it’s a primary care physician office, emergency room or urgent care facility.

The study focused on patients’ special pain points and how much they impact the likelihood of returning to a healthcare provider. It showed patients care more about clean and pleasant waiting rooms than they do about short wait times.

When asked about what would cause them not to return to a primary care office, 29% of patients said they were turned off by unpleasant waiting rooms versus 6% who said long wait times.

While physician practices have long focused on trying to reduce patient wait times in order to improve their patient satisfaction scores, the survey suggests they also need to make sure their waiting room is not messy or dirty. Patients who found the waiting room unpleasant at their primary care practice were five times more likely to be dissatisfied with their overall experience.

Despite the fact many patients said they experienced very long wait times that isn’t the reason they said they would switch to another facility. “Whether this is due to patients having very low expectations, few alternatives or are just genuinely not bothered by waiting remains unclear,” the report said.

The other top five reasons patients in the U.S. said they would not return to a primary care office were:

  • Unfriendly staff
  • Medical staff not listening to concerns
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of sympathy for pain management requests

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