Managing Waiting Room Anxiety

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Published: 06th January 2011
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It is common knowledge that everyone hates waiting. The waiting process is worse when the following appointment is something that the person is dreading. Studies, such one performed in 2005 on children and pre-surgery waiting, found that tactics used to reduce waiting room anxiety helps relieve the personís stress in their following appointment. The study has led to the usage of a number of tactics that medical and businesses offices use to reduce anxiety in the waiting room.

Wait time disclosure
Emergency rooms are leading the way in reducing waiting room anxiety by disclosing wait times to certain patients. The systems are geared toward those who need to be seen by a doctor after hours, but their problems arenít considered life threatening. The patients can register online and get an estimated wait time, similar to a system enacted by the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma. You show up at the emergency room when the doctor is ready to see you. Other programs offer the same approach offline. Some emergency rooms and doctorís offices have begun using pagers. The receptionist pages the patient when it is time to see the doctor.

By allowing customers to wait at home, rather than the emergency room, they are more at ease when seen by the doctor. Avoiding hours of waiting eases the symptoms that are exacerbated by anxiety, heart rate increase, rashes, etc.

TV time
Television programs aimed at soothing people in the room are also affective. Videos can be used with music, graphics, inspirational sayings and other distractions to take the waiterís mind off the impending appointment. This is done with educational video, soft music, or regular television programming. However, the distraction doesnít work with everyone. If the TV programming is considered boring, offensive, or uncomfortable, it can actually increase the anxiety that the patient feels.

Other tactics

  • Remove the clocks, which are constant reminders of the slowly passing time.

  • Design the waiting room or lobby for greater comfort.

  • Play soft music.

  • Implement interactive activities for children. Some pediatricians install large play equipment to crawl on, light craft areas, and other activities.

  • Provide reading material on your field. Many people pass the time by reading. It would be great to curb some of the anxiety with materials that clue them in on what you are selling or the medicine you practice. Oftentimes, the unknown is the sole source of anxiety.



Waiting room anxiety is a major problem that doctors and businesses are constantly trying to fix. No matter what tactics you use, nothing beats appointment organization as a way to quell wait times for patients.

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