Practice aesthetics as medicine: how you can give your practice a face-lift to improve patient satisfaction

Dull, uninspiring workplaces often make employees feel sluggish, but the negative effects of an ugly practice can be amplified in unwell and unsettled patients attending appointments. Creating a warm and welcoming environment for your patients could reap benefits – here’s how

Practice managers and clinicians are often dealing with far-from-perfect premises, as highlighted by this; it finds that practice buildings may be too small for the number of patients they serve, in need of repair, or may simply be skimping on appealing aesthetics in favour of functionality.

When all employees are stretched, and consumed by the demands of their jobs, it’s hard to find time to think about how the practice looks to your patients and staff. However, overly clinical or bland practice aesthetics can have detrimental effects. Staff may become demotivated in a visually un-stimulating workplace – they may even suffer from the peculiar condition of ‘sick building syndrome’, an NHS-recognised set of cold-like symptoms that arise when someone spends too much time in stuffy, dry and dull ‘office-like’ environments.

What’s more , patients may find an overly ‘sterile’ or ‘clinical’ appearance unwelcoming – or even frightening. With health anxiety on the rise, more and more patients may feel distressed in a practice that reminds them of the fact they are in a setting dedicated to the treatment of illness.

Putting  your own aesthetic spin on your surgery has huge mood boosting potential for both patients and practice staff and, as a subtle but important form of branding your practice, transforming premise interiors can communicate  to both patients and prospective employees that your practice is clean, inviting and designed for their comfort – a cut above the rest. It signals that you take pride in your work and that the surgery is run by people who seek to make patient experience as pleasant as possible.

What, then, can be done to make your practice more aesthetically appealing to patients and staff so that they feel welcome in their family practice? After all, GP surgeries are local and tend to the domestic – they should balance cleanliness with homeliness.

Planting your practice

Science has long touted the benefits of indoor planting. Plants help to increase the humidity in the atmosphere by releasing moisture through their leaves – known as transpiration – which has been shown to decrease the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs – all of which are prevalent beasts in a GP surgery! Plants can also increase the quality of air by releasing more oxygen and removing pollutants.

Plants and humans have long since regulated gases in the atmosphere to create a stable ecosystem; creating a green microcosm in your practice could improve an anxious patient’s experience of waiting for their appointment.

Plants have also been proven to boost mood. Colour psychology says that our minds are wired to find green tones calming; while we might associate blue colours with the clinical, the relaxing green tones of plants can add serenity without sterility.

Of course, plants need some tending to so they can survive. There is nothing more depressing (and alarming) than walking into your local GP surgery to discover a desert of shrivelled up husks  – so choose plants that are low-maintenance yet green and lush, such as snake plants, spider plants and English ivy.

Pictures and posters

Posters in a practice can add interest to white walls- but make sure their content won’t cause alarm for those in the waiting room. Balancing medical information with interesting paintings or artwork can give patients something to look at that isn’t immediately and obviously disease-related. Reading about the symptoms of sepsis via a wall poster delivers vital information efficiently, but a photograph of the countryside reminds patients (and staff) that they won’t be in the clinical setting forever. It is important to get this balance right in order to have happy staff and happy patients.

It is always fun to spruce up a blank or beige wall with exciting photographs or artwork. You can get these inexpensively online or you can go to local supermarkets etc. to get your own photos printed and framed for display.

Glancing up at a photo of a glistening sea in the Caribbean, or a drifting hot air balloon against a deep blue sky , may give you the brief escapism you need before you turn your attention back to admin.

A splash of colour

White or cream walls, beige seats, a dusty brown carpet… this aesthetic doesn’t exactly scream comfort as soon as a patient walks through the door and into the waiting room. Luckily, you can do some easy, inexpensive DIY jobs to spruce up even the dullest of practices.

If you are feeling really creative, you could paint a mural on one of the walls. If this sounds like too much time and effort, you could turn the mural painting process into a fundraising event. Pick a charity to raise money for or, alternatively, raise funds to enhance services you offer in your practice, and advertise the event to your patients.

Enthusiastic and artistic community members will flock to your surgery to give it the splash of colour it deserves, all while pumping money back into the practice so it can deliver bigger and better services for patients.

Another easy idea is to put out paper, colouring crayons, felt-tips, pens and pencils for children to draw with whilst they wait for their appointments. You can then put their masterpieces up on the wall to create a colourful backdrop. In this way, the practice instantly becomes homely, and children will have something fun to occupy them during what can be a tedious or daunting time waiting to see the doctor.

We know that time is in high demand and short supply for those in the healthcare professions but investing in making your practice a more pleasant environment will improve the wellbeing of patients and staff and will also make your surgery more attractive to prospective GPs.

Amidst a GP recruitment and retention crisis, a sparkling, enticing and homely atmosphere could give your practice the edge it needs to stand out from the crowd.

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