The ideal waiting room

Leakage by Anna Orłowska, 2011

Tips for architects

By Siba Sahabi 

Waiting rooms in hospitals are usually designed in a practical and modest way. The average waiting room is characterised by:

    • an uncomfortable and sterile environment with little positive distraction
    • rows of seats with little or no privacy
    • minimal support for personal devices such as laptops

A more pleasant waiting area will especially provide more room and privacy, as well as address various needs of different users (needs such as a calm environment, interaction, or distraction). The ideal waiting room is characterised by:

    • various seating areas with different levels of privacy and stimuli
    • furniture that reflects the duration of the waiting time and that supports waiting activities, such as lounge options, café tables, and reading or working tables
    • seating areas with integrated room for wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walkers, and prams, so that family members or friends can sit together
    • chairs with handrails for older people so that they can get up easily
    • Wi-Fi and electrical outlets for personal devices so patients can stay connected to the outside world
    • seating space including room for items such as bags, personal devices, or beverages
    • waiting time information screens that can be easily read from all seating positions in the waiting area
    • ‘quiet areas’ or resting rooms to which people can withdraw from the noise
    • private areas where friends can sit without being disturbed by strangers
    • the use of materials, textures, colours, and lighting that have a calming effect
    • a view of nature
    • neutral or pleasant odours
    • pleasant acoustics
    • the ability to exercise, such as long lobbies and workout spaces
    • reading material in a variety of languages, such as magazines or books that can be traded
    • medical information to stimulate awareness concerning a medical problem or new or temporary life situation through brochures, hospital magazines, etc.*
    • objects that provide distraction and inspiration such as art installations**

* For more information, read the article More pleasant, faster, and more efficient.
** For more information, read the article The healing power of art.

The aforementioned facilities won’t all fit in the average waiting room. One solution for a lack of space is a waiting zone located somewhere else in the hospital. Contact can be maintained with the patient using a smartphone or pager. The patient can be called to the relevant department when his or her time comes up.