I spent the better part of the day going from one doctor’s office to another today–a total of three, which has to be some kind of record. First stop, the opthamologist, where I discovered the floaters I’ve gotten recently are just another sign of aging. Then I headed over to the Academy of Oriental Medicine, for an acupuncture treatment (my back went out over the weekend). Last on the list was my GP, to load up on antibiotics to combat what started out as the flu and is now bronchitis. Add to this list an appt. last Wednesday and another one this Wednesday for other stuff, which will certainly get me flagged as a hypochondriac to my insurance company.

After spending time in three different medical environments in one day, I’ve come up with a list of simple modifications that would help make the experience a little easier for patients:

Install a patient communications system similar to automated phone ques. If a nurse tells me “the doctor will be with you in about 10-15 minutes,” I’m going to assume I’ve been forgotten if I’m still sitting there with my thumb up my butt 30 minutes later. Which is going to tick me off. Who wants to feel like a dolt? Instead, it would be reassuring to hear, “there are two patients ahead of you. Your wait time will be approximately XX minutes.” This will also help me determine whether or not I have time enough to read the People Magazine cover story or if I need to stick to Picks & Pans.

Let’s update our doctorly color palette, shall we? I understand that lavender–as ubiquitous a color in doctors’ offices as I’ve ever seen–is a calming color, but can we combine it with chocolate and white instead of white and gray? Lavender + white + gray = clinical. Clinical environments make you anxious, right? On the other hand, lavender + white + chocolate = sophisticated, modern, relaxing.

A good designer (meaning me) can help you select other soothing palettes of contemporary shades.

How about a bit of soundproofing between exam rooms? I don’t want a neighboring restaurant patron to hear me discuss the latest movie I’ve seen…I sure don’t want the patient next door to hear private conversations between me and medical staff! Too few doctors’ offices take this precaution. I realize A/C vents are a big part of this problem, but strategically-placed white noise machines would do the trick for very little money.

I promise not to rob you if you’ll please stop expecting me to. That whole glassed-in receptionist box has Got. To. Go. If your other patients are that scary, I’d like a bullet-proof box too, thank you. Besides, these areas just end up becoming a repository for an endless stream of “please do this or that” signs. Which, ummm, are never read.

One last $5 fix: an over-the-door hook and a hanger or two in each exam room will allow me to hang up my clothing instead of piling it on your dismal visitor’s chair. And gawd forbid I have my three-year old in tow…who, in an effort to entertain herself and others, may elect to wave a certain garment like a surrender flag for the doctors. Even if I’m alone in the exam room, I feel compelled to fold everything neatly–like I’m working at the Gap–as if a lack of tidiness will reveal some sort of character flaw to the medical team. Do I really need to run this gauntlet each and every visit?


I know, I haven’t even addressed the biggest design faux pas, like 80s burlap-wrapped waiting room chairs that you can’t sit on wearing shorts unless you love skin burns…there’s plenty of that too, but these other improvements are what I want first.

Now if only I could charge a co-pay for every doctor’s office to take my sage advice…