The future of the Waiting Room

As we contemplate the future of our current and future office space I can’t help but wonder about the plight of the waiting room.

With our current COVID policy, all patients wait in the car and are escorted from their car to the exam room.

We have figured our a great workflow for this, have rearranged the phone tree in accordance and patients seem to love it! Kids remain “restrained” in their car seats and free from germs, stumbles and falls and general waiting room chaos.

With telemedicine on the rise and this current situation I can’t help but wonder if the waiting room is a thing of the past.


Katie Schafer
Bloom Pediatrics


We have done same thing
However we are in Bakersfield ca
It gets very hot
My pts can’t afford to keep their car running as it costs money
We are trying to figure out alternative

I think over the coming months, places like IDEO will be launching new space design ideas to reflect the decrease waiting room needs…combined with telemedicine forever a part of pediatric practices, the number of exam rooms, etc will potentially change…it will be interesting to see how people change their floorplans as new spaces for Pediatric practices are created, etc…

Even is telemedicine visits keep seeing 30% of sick visits, that should be reflected in designs in some way. As @Chip has shown with their data, well visits will be the thing that keep practices going, etc…

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Yes and for those offices that put a lot of focus and effort around workflow this may be an opportunity to really reduce the number of patients/parents in the waiting room. This will require some family education (think call in and confirm your appointment as you’re pulling into the practice) however given all the changes with COVID-19, it’s a perfect time to institute some patient centered work flow processes.


when we built our current office several years ago we opted for a small waiting area (no sick/well division) with the goal of rooming ASAP, and using the space for more rooms. we have now moved the waiting room to the parking lot, and for the near future it will remain that way. much better than kids running around the office while moms/dads sit on their phones. thinking forward to fall, and may do all sick visits initially as TH, then bringing in at specific times for targeted testing and exam. there is no way we can resurrect our old am walk in time which was the only time our waiting room was full.

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Curious, how many have installed sneeze shields at your front check-in desk?

while we wait to figure out the best permanent solution, we simply hung a clear shower curtain across the reception area which does the trick nicely!

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We are thinking in the same lines. How many patients does your practice see per day, how many medicaid, how many walk ins, how many no shows do you have, how many labs do you do? All these factors affect need for waiting. How many providers, what is your overall cycle time (check-in to check out time), do you do well and sick? The medical workflow is full of unexpected variations and the waiting is just a buffer and the exam rooms are also glorified private waiting areas. I am also adding a sub-waiting area, plus waiting spaces outside the exam rooms.

I am trying to figure this out as well, But, I am in NYC where there are no parking lots and no one has a car to wait in… very difficult.

we have the old fashioned glass window

We have adescent sized waiting room. It has 2 entrances (on main one on the side - no ramp). Although we are currently not using a waiting room, I anticipate the number of patients that will increase over flu season will make it hard. We are figuring out how to put a divider in to have the separate entrances for sick and well (although we still plan on essentially not using the waiting room). If we do that, what do we do with the bathroom? its on one side of the waiting room. we only have one other patient bathroom in the actual office. Thoughts? Alternatively we could make half the waiting room “sick exam rooms” but i feel like in flu season we need more sich then well. Alternative #2 would be a shed in back of parking lot for sick visits but not sure that would work as no bathroom. Attached pick ot building noted the front main entrance and side both leading to waiting room. IMG_20180131_081851|666x500

And picture of the waiting room - the door is the side entrance and the main is just to the right of the pic next to the window…

thanks for your thoughts, eliza

I think I got the last 4 pieces of plexiglass at local Home Depot and I built 4 of them. Not sure if they do much, but Front Desk sure like having them and they feel safer at work. Got 36inch by 36 inch plexiglass and used 18 inch 2x4’s.

We are in the midst of having a glass barrier built for our reception desk. The contractor want to make it 32" high on a 42" desk leaving a gap at the top (total ht = 6’2"). I was thinking it should cover the entire space desk to ceiling to be both a sound barrier and a virus barrier. What do the rest of you think?

Sounds like we are in the same frame of mind. My current dilemma is how to get all of the necessary paperwork updated while patients wait in their cars. We installed kiosks in the waiting room several years ago to make that process relatively seamless and updatable every time the patient comes to the office. Now we’re simply getting name and DOB via a drive-thru check-in process. Financial and personal data is not getting updated. That is going to be a problem. Any good ideas?

What you described is a common concern. Depending on your self-check in options, is there room in your process (and WiFi in the parking lot) to hand a parent a tablet to complete with registration (with nice dose of Clorox wiping before and after use)?

If not able to do that, maybe someone can have a laptop and ask the parent to confirm their info? I’m thinking along the lines of when Chick-FIL-A has people standing in the drive through during peak times…

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Our glass goes all the way to the ceiling and slides open. It’s definitely good for slowing germs but is also a magnet for finger prints! It is a fair sound barrier but also gives a false sense of privacy. Staff needs to be reminded people can still hear plenty!

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Thanks Tracy for the reply. How thick is your glass? I was hoping a glass barrier would also stop most of the sound, but I guess I should not get my hopes up! How often do your receptionists slide the glass open each hour? Do they get tired of opening and closing it and just leave it open?

I am not sure how thick the glass is. We normally just keep the glass open unless they are on the phone or completing a task they need privacy for. During the past 2 months the glass has been closed 24/7!

We just had the glass company out this week. We are going 3 feet high and completely side to side with a paper slot at the bottom. We weren’t so worried about sound and preferred to have the air exchange for the summer months. I love our open concept and, our front desk is very used to being mindful of HIPAA. I hope this is temporary and we can take them down sometime next year.

This was our waiting room! We installed a sink in the corner and a wall (with a door) in the hallway leading back to the clinical area. This space is for Sick Visits (it includes the reception office, the waiting room and the patient bathroom) and it has its own entrance. The rest of the office is being used as the Well Visit side and has its own entrance and bathroom.

The reception staff is still remote, we are using Phreesia for patients to check in and last week started using Phreesia’s 2-way texting so that parents can let us know when they have arrived and we can text them back to say that we are ready to meet them at the door to bring them back to a room.