Anxiety over an upcoming medical appointment is quite common, especially when it comes to fear of serious illness. This anxiety is often exacerbated when a patient feels unwelcome at their physician’s practice. Patients who feel unwelcome at a physician’s practice are more likely to postpone appointments or avoid them altogether, which can initiate a downward spiral of health decline. Therefore, it is a physician’s responsibility to ensure that their practice provides a welcoming environment for all patients. Not only will this increase a patient’s comfort level, but it will help to establish a trusting patient-physician relationship from the outset.

When it comes to obese patients, for example, physicians should make sure to outfit their practice with chairs that are designed to accommodate larger patients and with blood-pressure cuffs that fit properly. Another suggestion for boosting patient comfort would be gender-neutral restroom signs. Measures such as these establish a sense of compassion, thereby lessening patient anxiety before the actual appointment even begins.

Administrative staff members are essential to providing patients with a comforting and welcoming office experience. Being that they are often the first and last people interacting with patients at an appointment, courteous and knowledgeable front desk staff can help to ease patient anxiety. They are crucial to establishing patient comfort both before meeting with a physician and right before leaving the office.

Another critical error too often made by physicians is having an unsupportive, terse bedside manner. Dismissive physicians do not deliver compassionate care, and their lack of empathy directly effects a patient’s anxiety level. When considering obese patients, for instance, too many physicians suggest weight loss but do not provide patients with the know-how to achieve that goal. This leaves patients feeling lost, scared, and alone, as if they were told to build a shed but not supplied with any tools. Creating a welcoming, comforting office environment means not merely advising patients on what they need to do, but how they can go about doing it. Physicians must take the time to come up with an in-depth game plan, advising patients on how they can make lifestyle changes via diet, exercise, and medical management.

Technology may also play a role in helping physicians to increase a patient’s comfort level. For example, using a body composition scale, which provides a detailed analysis of body mass index (BMI), could help physicians to provide a more effective weight-loss strategy for obese patients. Physicians must also do their best to provide patients with the tools to feel comfortable carrying out their weight-loss game plan on their own at home. One helpful physician suggestion could be an app that allows patients to easily track their weight, nutrition, and exercise on a daily basis. Tools such as these provide patients with a sense of empowerment, which can elicit a sense of comfort and lessen anxiety, thereby ensuring a patient’s return to your practice and increasing their goal of optimal health.