Waiting in Japan, China, and America

Between the Trees by Ellie Davies, 2014. With her work the artist questions: What is a forest? Is it the trees or the space that exists between them?

What we can learn from healthcare abroad

By Siba Sahabi

Waiting is universally perceived as tedious, but some cultures have found smart ways to approach it. Here are three examples of how hospitals in other countries have improved how their patients experience waiting. 

Waiting using your mobile phone
In China, patients receive messages about their waiting time on their mobile phones. That’s smart, because that way they can spend most of the waiting time outside the hospital and only take a seat in the waiting room shortly before they are treated.

Between the Trees by Ellie Davies, 2014

The healing power of nature
The term shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that one could literally translate as ‘forest bathing’. This nature therapy involves taking in the surrounding nature with all of your senses. A sort of mindfulness meditation in nature. In Japan this type of therapy has been in use since the 1980s. In the last few years, this type of therapy has been employed increasingly in Europe. The Belgian hospital AZ Sint-Lucas in Bruges borders on a splendid wildlife reserve (the Steenbrugse Bosjes and the Assebroekse Meersen). In collaboration with the Agentschap Natuur en Bos, work is currently underway on special footpaths in the forest next to the hospital. Soon some short and long walking routes will be outfitted with time indicators and informational signs.

Studies show that there is a relationship between spending time in nature and improvement in health and pain reduction. The effect can vary greatly from person to person, but many patients experience real reductions in blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. The reason is that nature unconsciously sends us the message that we are allowed to relax. Reducing stress can result in patients recovering more quickly.

Between the Trees van Ellie Davies, 2014

No more waiting room
Why does it feel so natural that we should wait for the doctor in the waiting room? In the United States, some hospitals offer ‘self-rooming’. After checking in, the patient goes straight to the room where he or she will be treated, bypassing the traditional waiting room altogether. The physician or nurse goes to meet the patient in the treatment room. Of course, this system only works if there are sufficient treatment rooms available. Self-rooming provides patients more privacy and rest, allowing them to experience less stress while they are waiting. This method also prevents viral infection between patients in the waiting room. Self-rooming also appears to be more efficient and time-saving than a traditional waiting room.