The Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Waiting Room Design
The waiting room is a ubiquitous part of any trip to a doctor’s office. Most people spend at least a few minutes there when they see their doctor, whether it’s to fill out a few forms or to wait until their doctor is ready. In a pre-coronavirus world, spending time in a waiting room wasn’t always convenient. But as we continue to work our way through this crisis, medical waiting rooms are now seen as a potential health hazard.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the waiting room experience has undergone a lot of reevaluation to help protect patients and clinic employees. Some medical offices have opted to completely eliminate the use of waiting rooms by having patients wait outside or in their cars, using digital check-in procedures, and sending text messages to let patients know when to come in. But not all medical offices have been able to implement these types of digital solutions and as we head into the winter months, waiting outside may not be a desirable option for much longer. So what can be done to help keep people safe while they get the care they need?
Socially Distant Seating
With social distancing being a key component of preventing the spread of coronavirus, it’s vital for waiting room seating to be reconfigured to create plenty of distance between patients. Individual chairs offer the most flexibility since they can easily be rearranged as needed and extra chairs can be removed to temporarily reduce overall capacity. In the case of seating like sofas, benches, and tandem seating, seats may need to be blocked or marked off to remind people to keep distance between themselves and other patients.
Protection for Receptionists
Clinic receptionists play a vital role in office operations, but given the level of contact they can have with patients, it’s very important for that contact to be minimized as much as possible. Plexiglass barriers have become a common feature at receptionist desks in offices of all kinds and they will likely stay around for some time to come. Hand sanitation stations should also be available in waiting rooms for patients to use before handing things like paperwork to clinic employees.
Sanitation has always played a vital role in medical offices, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever before. In medical offices that haven’t eliminated the use of their waiting rooms, they’ve often taken the step of removing non-essential, high-touch surfaces like magazines or adding hands-free entry options for doors. But it’s also created a need to think about the types of materials used in waiting areas.
Some types of materials and surfaces are easier to clean than others. To keep waiting areas as sterile as possible, antimicrobial materials should be used on high-touch surfaces when possible. Countertops, for example, can be made of non-porous materials like marble and quartz for easy disinfecting. Or for seating, antimicrobial materials like healthcare grade vinyl and other specially treated fabrics are durable enough to withstand everyday use and frequent cleaning.
For extra protection, finishes can be treated with antimicrobial coatings, but it’s important to note that these are a temporary solution and will need to be reapplied according to manufacturer specifications. However, door hardware manufacturers are now often incorporating antimicrobial coatings directly into their finishes, which provides a permanent solution.
Need help creating a waiting room that will help employees and patients stay safe? Premier Construction & Design has experience designing medical office spaces in the Metro Detroit area. Take a look at our portfolio to see some examples of our work and contact us so that we can learn more about your project.