Background: This study examines hospital outpatient perceptions of the physical environment of the outpatient waiting areas in one medical center. The relationship of patient characteristics and their perceptions and needs for the outpatient waiting areas are also examined.
Method: The examined medical center consists of five main buildings which house seventeen primary waiting areas for the outpatient clinics of nine medical specialties: 1) Internal Medicine; 2) Surgery; 3) Ophthalmology; 4) Obstetrics-Gynecology and Pediatrics; 5) Chinese Medicine; 6) Otolaryngology; 7) Orthopedics; 8) Family Medicine; and 9) Dermatology. A 15-item structured questionnaire was developed to rate patient satisfaction covering the four dimensions of the physical environments of the outpatient waiting areas: 1) visual environment; 2) hearing environment; 3) body contact environment; and 4) cleanliness. The survey was conducted between November 28, 2005 and December 8, 2005. A total of 680 outpatients responded. Descriptive, univariate, and multiple regression analyses were applied in this study.
Results: All of the 15 items were ranked as relatively high with a range from 3.362 to 4.010, with a neutral score of 3. Using a principal component analysis' summated scores of four constructed dimensions of patient satisfaction with the physical environments (i.e. visual environment, hearing environment, body contact environment, and cleanliness), multiple regression analyses revealed that patient satisfaction with the physical environment of outpatient waiting areas was associated with gender, age, visiting frequency, and visiting time.
Conclusion: Patients' socio-demographics and context backgrounds demonstrated to have effects on their satisfaction with the physical environment of outpatient waiting areas. In addition to noticing the overall rankings for less satisfactory items, what should receive further attention is the consideration of the patients' personal characteristics when redesigning more comfortable and customized physical environments of waiting areas.