No one likes to wait, especially in today's fast-paced world. That's one reason many Memphis doctors and medical practices are at least making the wait easier and less stressful.
Waiting rooms that have been remodeled now feature lighter colors that offer a welcome reprieve with such amenities as digital registration, Wi-Fi, coffee bars, charging stations and work areas.
Gone, hopefully, will be the days of sitting in waiting areas elbow-to-elbow with other patients as the television blares and at least one person, invariably, is coughing.
"We want to ensure our patients spend very little time in the waiting rooms," explained Jenny Turner Koltnow, Communications and Development Director for Church Health.
The changes Church Health made to its waiting rooms are the result of a massive transformation when it moved its 13-building operations to its new 150,000-square-foot home in Crosstown Concourse in 2017. Koltnow called the new digs magnificent, an upgrade that spans to all of their clinics, operations and services as well as their waiting rooms.
"Our patients literally cannot afford to sit here all day - each minute they are waiting is a minute they're not working or not taking care of their families," Koltnow said. "That said, our waiting rooms are bright, clean, spacious and comfortable."
Because of the number of people it sees on a daily basis, Church Health has separate waiting rooms designated Walk-In, Dental, Behavioral Health, Physical Rehabilitation, Medical Specialty, Family Medicine and Eye Care. Each year, Church Health treats almost 18,500 individual patients, accounting for more than 62,500 appointments. More than 85 percent of the patients live below the federal poverty line.
With the new renovated space at Crosstown, Church Health added digital screens throughout its waiting areas. It's another way to promote its support services such as the next date for family cooking classes or what physical rehab services provide.
Before McDonald Murrmann moved to its current office space several years ago at the corner of Riverdale and Wolf River Boulevard, Dr. Susan Murrmann described the typical doctor's office.
"Like our previous waiting area, most offices had very tight seating arrangements, no amenities for the patients, a large front desk with multiple operations going, phone calls, appointment making, call backs and check in/out. The offices appeared very busy, and that probably created a lot of anxiety for some patients," she said.
Now, Dr. Murrmann added, "I feel that our office has a clean, more contemporary look. It's more peaceful, open and inviting. And, of course, the coffee bar is a big hit."
During a recent visit to the McDonald Murrmann Center for Wellness & Health, two women worked at a charging station/communal work table with bar stools. Eventually, the center plans to add iPads so that patients can browse through the services offered. Other patients sat in spacious seating areas.
Just a six-minute drive from the McDonald Murrmann offices, Campbell Clinic's Spine Center in Cordova is serving as a pilot for a relatively new "on stage/off stage" concept.
"Under this design," said Valerie Toole, Director of Operations at Campbell Clinic, "patients are moved to smaller, more private waiting areas sooner in the process and aren't exposed to the busier parts of our exam areas - the nursing work stations, the charting areas, company phones and X-ray reviews."
Because the patients like the new look, Toole said they'll be adopting the same model once the new, $45 million Campbell Clinic outpatient facility in Germantown opens.
"The Spine Center, as well as the new building on our Germantown campus, added public USB ports for patient convenience while charging laptops, tablets and cell phones," Toole added.
Standing stations also are a hit. "We found that standing-height work stations are more comfortable for patients in pain, as well as sometimes more convenient when using a laptop or tablet while working or browsing the Internet during their wait," she said.
Even as new concepts are added, Campbell Clinic officials are not afraid to tweak their ideas. Originally, they located the standing stations in the center of the waiting room. "We moved them to the interior walls to provide a more open waiting room," Toole said.
While making the waiting rooms more open, Toole said they have added layers of privacy and security for their patients through the "on stage/off stage model."
"This concept allows the patient to enter the exam room through a patient corridor and allows the staff to enter/exit the exam room through a separate door to the 'staff work area,' " Toole said.
Patients see less of the off stage or back of-the-house workings which now allows the staff to collaborate in a more HIPAA-secure manner.
Whether a patient chooses to wait in a quiet area or in a communal one with other patients, Toole said, "We want it to be a seamless experience for them. We realize patients are on the go at all times and work and life don't stop just because you have to see the doctor."
When the doors open to the new Germantown outpatient clinic on Wolf River Boulevard, Toole promised even more patient-friendly amenities: "We're going to offer a grab-and-go style café in the grand lobby that will feature healthy food and beverage options for purchase."
Michael Taylor, with Michael Taylor Interiors, sees the trends in waiting rooms and medical offices as a move toward a simpler look. By having more streamlined features with chrome, light colors and an array of electronic amenities, Taylor said designers are creating happier, less stressful and more cheerful surroundings in waiting rooms and patient areas.
"Color changes your mood. Think how much we have on our minds," Taylor said. "Previously, waiting rooms were more a traditional style with warmer reds, golds and greens and dark woods. Now, many offices are using pops of color like lime green or baby blue on lighter fabrics that are bleachable and cleanable that we didn't have 10 years ago."
Sometimes the hardest part of a doctor's visit is the waiting. With the more patient-friendly changes being made, the wait just got a little easier.