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Strategies for Reducing Ennui

April 02, 2001|Linda Marsa

Theme parks such as Disneyland have transformed waiting in line into an art form. Bored families are either entertained by the likes of C-3PO, or they're shuttled through endlessly winding lines that give the illusion of movement.

Now, after spending millions of dollars studying waiting and line ergonomics, experts have come to the conclusion that sitting in a doctor's reception area drives people batty too--and that patients get annoyed having to wait well past their scheduled appointment.

Their suggestions? Copy techniques from the masters, advises Howard F. Bronson, director of communications for the Irvine-based Practice Builders, a marketing agency for doctors. Strewing dog-eared magazines around the waiting room is a "no-no." It sends the message to patients that they're in for a long siege.

Better to move them into a treatment room right away, so they think they're making progress even when they're not. If there aren't enough exam rooms available for the waiting room overflow, give them a mini-journal to focus their thoughts on their medical complaints--sort of the physician's equivalent of C-3PO.

When all else fails, install TVs in the waiting rooms. But be sure they're tuned to CNN. "Being informed," notes Bronson, "gives patients a better feeling about the passing time."

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