"I love waiting at the doctor's office!" said no one ever.
With all due respect to those hard-working healthcare professionals who help us get better or stay well, waiting to see them can be a chore at best and a health risk at worst. On any given day, medical offices are germy places, but in the time of COVID-19, the risk was much higher.
However, the medical waiting room does serve an important purpose: It's where patients fill out their paperwork and make their payments. But the pandemic forced healthcare administrators to rethink those procedures to minimize human contact, including apps and software programs that collect information and payments even before the patient gets to the office.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that technology is only one part of improving the patient waiting room experience -- and some doctors are ready to do away with it entirely.
Upgrading the waiting room experience
In some facilities, the waiting rooms have transformed to look more like sleek hotel lobbies, like the one at The San Antonio Orthopedic Group in Texas. Others will look more like an airplane concourse, with plenty of places to sit either alone or with companions, like the Mayo Clinic's new campus in Phoenix, which was inspired by the design of a new clinic in the University of Texas at Austin system. At the Mayo Clinic, serene desert views from the waiting room can help to quell white-coat anxiety.
Still, the staff at the Mayo Clinic would prefer that you not even wait indoors at all. The facility's app will soon be able to track a patient's arrival on campus, notifying them of a parking spot closest to the entrance. Patients will also be informed if their appointment will be delayed, and if so, the app will make some friendly recommendations on how the patient might spend the wait, be it by getting a snack or a cup of coffee at a cafe on campus or attending a wellness seminar.
The doctor will see you now -- or after you shop
For retailers looking to set up shop next to healthcare facilities, this notion of optimizing the waiting room experience is a revelation. Rather than sitting and leafing through outdated magazines, patients can shop. CVS (NYSE: CVS) is already forging ahead with this trend through its HealthHUB clinics, where patients can make purchases in the store while they wait for their appointment with a healthcare professional. By the end of the year, CVS will have opened 1,000 of these locations.
Imagine what this new model of waiting room could do for commercial real estate. While telehealth visits make it easy for people to access doctors and other medical professionals, facilities within close proximity of restaurants and shopping have their allure. Retailers near medical offices would do well to have a seamless customer experience so people can find what they need to buy easily, be it lunch, coffee, or anything else on their list, and check out quickly in plenty of time for their appointments.
The bottom line
Convenience is key for consumers, but it's something that hasn't always been synonymous with waiting at a doctor's office. As more medical facilities move into a new, improved phase of the patient experience, retail investors could stand to benefit by moving in next door and providing top-notch customer experiences of their own.