Our friend and colleague Rob Klein—a consumer authority for hospitals and doctors—told us this story from a research focus group. Many people in the group agreed that the glass window at the front desk made patients feel unwelcome.
A glass window seems to be standard issue for every doctor’s office on the planet. But it turns out that the window is one of the most hated features about a medical office visit. It’s a reflection (no pun intended) of how patients feel they’re being treated. And it’s not good.
Rob shared that, through the window, “people could see a staff member working on a computer with their head down.” One focus group member observed, “the staff was clearly trying to avoid making eye contact with me. And early in the visit, this was annoying and frustrating to people.”
“In another focus group,” Rob said, "one participant said that at his doctor’s office they have a piece of paper taped to the window that says ‘don’t bang on the glass.’ So to make a point with the office staff, this patient deliberately banged on the glass.
“It turns out that it only made the staff member mad. Evidently, they didn’t get it.” A glass window is a barrier that makes people uncomfortable.
“It’s unwelcome in a doctor’s office. Experiencing the office (including the glass window) is part of the patient journey and it could make or break the overall experience.” The bottom line to this story is that it’s a missed opportunity to make a good first impression.
Issues of patient privacy and office security are valid concerns. But can your reception area be reconfigured to eliminate the barrier window? Can a welcome desk or open island be situated in the open among the reception chairs? Are there other barriers that can be removed or replaced?
If it were a blank page, how would you create a warm, welcoming, supportive first impression? What would it take to re-invent the space to be clean, memorable…and perhaps reduce patient stress and anxiety? What can be included that makes the space and the experience completely unique—above and beyond the competition?
I know about one practice that stations a “service ambassador” in the reception area…no window, no walls. Their duty is to personally greet everyone who comes into the office, assist with forms or questions, and to make them feel comfortable and welcome.