How to create a comfortable waiting room and use posters effectively

GP waiting room posters

So I was merrily skipping through our Facebook Page feed this week when I suddenly scrolled to a GP practice that had posted what can only be described as ‘verbal vomit’. I literally recoiled in horror!

Should I message them to say ‘what were you thinking’ – would they think I was a creepy sales person touting for business? It was a recruitment poster for a new patient panel group. It was trying to be enticing to patients but instead had 300+ words filled with NHS jargon plus a myriad of fonts in different sizes taking up every bit of white space imaginable. Really – would you have read it?

When it comes to nice, comfortable waiting rooms and poster displays, GP practices are not known for performing that well – there are of course many exceptions and I’ll come to those. In fact, many GP waiting rooms could really benefit from an overhaul of their environment but I totally understand that interior and poster design is not and cannot be everyone’s forte especially in the cash-strapped era we find ourselves in.

Good communication however; that’s a different story. We all try to do that every single day.

As experts in healthcare marketing and marketing for GP practices, we believe that GP surgeries of all sizes could use some guidance on creating the perfect comfortable waiting room experience. Even if you’re not a GP practice but have a waiting room in a community centre or private clinic for example, I’m sure this will be helpful.


The impact of your waiting room

You may not realise it, but the look of your waiting room could be having a real impact on the people using your services.

The size of the room, the lighting and layout can be expensive to improve but things like poster displays should be much easier. Recent research carried out by the University of Edinburgh into the look and feel of GP surgeries in the UK suggested poorly designed and sometimes ‘gory’ posters could lead clients and patients to feel anxious.

‘Bossy’ lists and too many leaflets and posters were also found to be commonplace. A poster displayed in the waiting room of a GP practice in Braintree, Essex in 2014 received negative press coverage for telling patients not to take their grievances online. It’s understandable the practice didn’t want negative comments about their service and staff being discussed on social media but the angry poster, written all in caps, didn’t really help matters.

Whilst many posters are there to convey important messages; the text, images or format that are used can have the opposite effect, causing people to not read them. That’s not what we want.

So, how do you make sure that your waiting room posters are having the best impact? Let us help you with our top tips in creating the perfect poster.


Waiting room posters: Make sure they’re brief

Whilst you may be tempted to pack your poster with a huge, detailed message, be aware this could mean that you take away from what you want to say. The very best poster is one that is brief and to the point.

This is because research has shown that the average person can only remember seven things at any one time. This means that you should steer clear from overcrowding your poster with too much text.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group. They created a great campaign to remind patients to cancel GP appointments that they didn’t need anymore. The message was kept brief and punchy and the images were ones that patients could relate to. Much more eye-catching as a result.


Waiting room posters: Make sure they are clear

You may think that the poster you have created is easy to read when you view it on the computer screen. However, you should think about how the poster will look to someone who is reading it from around 5 feet away. After all, it is that person that you will want to be able to read it.

London LMC’s created this simple poster to help people find out who their named GP was. Bold, very few words and easy to read from a distance, it perfectly communicated a very simple message.


Waiting room posters: Use the right images

One of the things that many people find off-putting on posters in waiting rooms is the imagery. Of course, sometimes you need to use a strong image in order to best convey your message, but you should, where possible, steer clear of anything too gory. This could be an anxious time for those waiting.

I’m not a huge fan of clip art but sometimes if clip art is all you have, you can still use it to your advantage. Check out Ivy Grove surgery in Derbyshire who use clip art to demonstrate why bringing one problem only to an appointment is important. Images instead of words are proven to resonate better with people so use it to your benefit.


Waiting room posters: DON’T SHOUT!!!!

The poster above could have been made even better in my opinion if it had NOT USED CAPS!!! See how aggressive that could come across? Using all caps is actually more difficult for people to read than a mixture of upper and lowercase letters. It also comes across like you’re shouting. Not what we want, is it?

I know we’re thinking emphasis here and by goodness I know how frustrating it can be when people just don’t seem to stick to the rules but hey, they’re not the experts. You are. One little poster in a waiting room is never going to change that behaviour.


Waiting room posters: Appeal to those reading it

What the poster says is important, but it is also vital that it catches the eyes of the person it’s intended for too.

Use bright and bold colours that draw focus to it (preferably without looking like you accidentally knocked the B&Q Valspar paint collection all over it!) and also use language that suits the audience it’s for.

Ask most patients and they won’t know what ‘primary care’ is. Ask most people on the street and they won’t know what ‘third sector’, ‘service user’ or ‘multi-disciplinary’ is either.

My best advice is to think how you would tell a close friend or someone you like. Think simple. Think friendly.


How do your waiting room posters look?

So, now you know the secret of the ideal waiting room experience and creating better posters. What other suggestions do you have for keeping a comfortable waiting room without getting the DIY SOS team in? How about using those GP waiting room TV screens better?

If you need further advice on this or any other effective healthcare or charity marketing services, then get in touch with us.