Understand the minds of patients who are kept waiting

Understanding these eight factors can help you improve your medical practice from your patient’s point of view.

Unoccupied time seems never ending

It may not actually take longer, but when you are idle, time feels like it stretches on forever.

Pleasantly distract your patients. Make sure you have quality magazines, wifi, even a fish tank can help divert your patients attention from the void of the wait. You could also provide self-service water, hand sanitiser to help them feel good and break up the wait.

Alone time feels longer than occupied time

Isolation magnifies the experience of time passing. Patients who are waiting alone feel it move more slowly than those who are with somebody.

Engage patients who are waiting. If they are talkative, make sure that staff engage with them, it’s a great opportunity to promote your practice’s services in a face-to-face environment.

If they are introspective, offer a book, magazine or even a practice newsletter to read.

Waits after a service feel the longest

Waiting for an appointment to start can feel long. But it is the waiting for the practice staff at the counter that can really irritate.

Process the patient as soon as possible. Let them leave. You can do the paperwork when they’ve gone. If you are in the middle of a long chat on the phone or with another patient, ask that person to wait a moment while you attend to the one that is ready to go.

The post-service wait is the longest.

Not knowing why you are waiting causes anxiety

You’re in the waiting room. The appointment was booked for 10 am. It’s 10.20. Where is the doctor? Is he late? Is he with someone else that’s running over time? Your nose is running and all the tissues are now a holey mess in your pocket.


A simple, “Doctor John had an emergency patient this morning, so he’s running a little late” will be much appreciated. Everyone understands and accepts that emergencies are treated with priority.

An uncomfortable wait feels longer

Make your wait as comfortable as possible for your customers. If the room is crowded, have some backup plan to alleviate the wait. Remember to keep everyone informed about the length of wait. That way, the ones who don’t really need to be there can make a rain check.

New patients feel like the wait is longer

It’s your first time to the medical centre. The website and practice marketing was compelling. It’s the solution you’ve been after. Travel vaccination for Cambodia! You’re going in six months. You need to be vaccinated against 18 different diseases. No problem. Will the injections be 18 separate needles or will they combine them in one shot? Who knows. Time to distract yourself with a magazine. Here’s one: A Graphic History of Rhinoplasty…looks interesting… looks OOOUUCCH!


Be mindful about the ‘clues’ you provide in your waiting area. A cosmetic surgery magazine might seem like appropriate information, but how will it make your customer feel?

He already feels nervous about the needle. Give them something to read that will be interesting and relaxing.

Patients will wait longer for a service they value

The wait to see Beryl the celebrant is just a week. Beryl does planning as well as the vows and stuff. That’s convenient, for sure. But Beryl, well, she doesn’t really get us.

Marianna, the other wedding planner, takes six months to get a consultation. Cindy saw her in September’s Vogue. But she is the best. She’s done Princess Joanna and Smiley Jackson. The catering, the spectacle, the service is sublime. We’ll get fireworks, water features, arty lighting, croquet on the lawns of the MCA. Our friends will have a ball. They’ll say it was the best wedding ever. Romantic but exciting. It suits us both.


Your patients won’t enjoy the wait if they don’t perceive your value. If they do, they’ll wait longer for it than a low-value service. No one will wait in a queue for a new kind of tic-tac dispenser, but they will camp out in the cold for an iPad. Such is the nature of perception.

How do you create perceptions of value?

Services are intangible. They can’t be touched, tasted or smelt. But other aspects of the service can be made tangible. Things like the quality of the waiting room itself, the magazines and material available for a patient to look at and touch. Items to think about using to demonstrate value.

Is there a nice antibacterial pump for hand washing? A water dispenser? Did I mention wi-fi, aroma, comfy chairs, nice art, pleasant air temperature, compact kids corner, and music?

The Growth Blueprint
The Growth Blueprint
Julian Hooper

Julian Hooper

I started Fluidic to help medical and healthcare innovators unlock their growth potential. Connect to discover how I can help you exceed your goals!

Keep your finger on the pulse!

Sign up to receive Medical Marketing tips by email