A visit to a doctor’s office or hospital is stressful enough without the worry of “How long is this going to take?” Recently, Angie’s List, a member review and rating service, found that of 1,008 members who responded to an online poll, 65 percent estimate they’ve waited an hour or more to see a healthcare provider.

More alarming, however, is the fact that 37 percent say if they’ve waited a long time to see a doctor, they’re less inclined to ask questions.

As a journalist and someone who naturally walks into an appointment with a list full of topics to discuss, I gulp at this statistic—and, yet, I know I’ve done it myself. And now, with the push toward electronic healthcare records, I’m still trying to figure out when I should be talking to my doctor and when I should be quiet so she can type on her laptop.

Statistics like these should get those responsible for the design of healthcare spaces talking—and asking questions—about how layout and design can improve the experience. Does the staff have to retrace their steps to accomplish a task? Is your waiting room comfortable so that by the time patients arrive in an exam room they're still in a good mood? Is your design helping to foster important conversations?

As part of United Health System’s integrated outpatient center in Vestal, N.Y., NexCore Group worked with the owner and design team to incorporate a custom desk—affectionately called the “shark fin”—with a wall-mounted monitor. Both are strategically placed in the exam rooms so the physician or nurse can look the patient in the eye while gathering medical information. (For more on this project, check out HCD’s September issue.)

Kim Prentice, architect, managing director development and operations, NexCore Group, says a focus on providing a face-to-face interaction drove the design decision. It was even tested in a mock-up during construction to make sure it was acceptable to all the physicians.

Design ideas like these sound simple but they can go a long way in improving patient satisfaction and reducing readmissions. And those are two topics that are going to get a lot of conversation in the coming months and year.