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Part of the beauty of urgent care is that patients spend less time waiting to be seen. Even minimal time spent waiting can be made more pleasant—thus enhancing the patient experience—with access to magazines, newspapers, television, and refreshments to alleviate uncertainty, boredom, and aggravation. If you’ve added a television to the media offered to patients, consider carefully what they’ll be watching. Generally, urgent care centers display three types of programming:

• Cable news (eg, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News)—The nation is undergoing intense political contests, fighting wars overseas and the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks at home, and struggling with joblessness, inflation, and inequality. Not only is what’s reported on the news stressful, but the way news is presented—tickers, pictures within the picture, and fast transitions between stories—contributes to the stress of waiting.

• Movies (ie, DVDs of G- or PG-rated films)—While it’s easy for patients to get “sucked in” to a good flick, consider that most movies are at least 90 to 120 minutes long—significantly longer than the patient’s visit. Most patients will join the movie “in progress,” without context to the plot, and will rarely see it through to completion. In addition, major motion picture studios require a license to display DVD content in a public, nonresidential setting. And changing DVDs can consume staff time and attention.

• Health promotion—There are companies, frequently funded by the pharmaceutical industry, that offer physicians “free” television sets displaying health-related programming. The question is, exactly how interesting is this programming to people who are not feeling their best and waiting to see the doctor? If consumers are unlikely to watch a show on exercise or healthy eating at home, how likely are they to be interested in the same programming in another setting? While there may be a business case for displaying promotional marketing to a captive audience, do the patients (especially children) really appreciate it?

Given the challenges in finding engaging, relevant, age-appropriate programming that will appeal to a broad audience, many urgent care centers find success with cable entertainment such as HGTV, Animal Planet, and TV Land. Also popular are afternoon talk shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, reality court shows like Judge Judy, and syndicated sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory. Programming should engage patients, draw a chuckle, and help the time pass.

Of course, many patients (including children) now carry their own programming on tablets and smartphones, so in addition to offering relevant television programming, your center should offer Wi-Fi so patients don’t “burn their data plans” sitting in your waiting room.

What to Show on Your Waiting Room Television Set