The Psychology of the Physician Waiting Room and Queueing Theory

wheregetoff.jpgMy friend Pete Abilla writes Shumla, a blog where he writes about a number of things including queueing and the psychology surrounding it.

Pyschology of Queueing - Psychology of Waiting Lines

Pete discusses taking his kids to a movie which triggered his thoughts.

"One key take-away for me was the role of a good attitude and how that can make a big, big difference in life.  Mr. Magorium puts a twist on the Psychology of Queueing.  Below are the the non-exhaustive, but general principles of the Psychology of Queueing:

  1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.
  2. Process-waits feel longer than in-process waits.
  3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer.
  4. Uncertain waits seem longer than known, finite waits.
  5. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits.
  6. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer is willing to wait.
  7. Solo waits feel longer than group waits.

In one scene, Mahoney (Natalie Portman) takes Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) to a clock store so they can listen to all the clocks strike 12:00.  Mahoney (Natalie Portman)  whispers they only have 37 seconds until the clocks strike 12:00 and all they have to do is wait.  Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) corrects her, saying that it’s 37 seconds to breathe, reflect, enjoy, regenerate, dream.

"Thirty-seven seconds well used is a lifetime," he says."

Since physician offices are usually the posterchild of long waits and poor service, it's worth thinking about how your patients are perceiving there experience in your waiting room. This is, after all, a service business.