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Letting urgent care staff control the music being played in the center can lead to negative patient experiences.

Imagine that a mother comes into your urgent care with a child who’s been running a fever.  Rocking the child in her lap, trying to provide some comfort, she notices the music that’s playing over your waiting room’s ceiling speakers and becomes annoyed by the booming bass and lyrics that seem more appropriate for the club scene. She looks up at the television and there’s a late afternoon talk show discussing DNA paternity results, with multiple women screaming at the alleged “father.” She sits there and tries to calm her child, while the pulse of the music and the “bleep…bleep…bleep…” on the television blare in the background.

Is this a healing environment? Is this how you want to showcase the competence of your providers and staff? Is this an atmosphere of professional, caring medical treatment? Clearly…the answer is “no.”

While it may seem like a cliché, research has shown that “music is medicine.” Just like a patient needs the right medicine to heal, the right music needs to be played to create a patient experience that will drive repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth.

The Right Kind of Music   

Pleasant music at a low volume playing in the urgent care waiting room can improve the patient experience. Healthcare is changing and creating positive patient experiences is the key to being successful in the urgent care business. According to the American Psychological Association, music can improve health outcomes, relieve stress and reduce pain. It does not have to be Beethoven. However, classical music and slow jazz has been shown to be the most effective.

Many people think that no one pays attention to the music playing in the background. However, the waiting room creates a tone for the visit. Patients will have a sense of calm and ease if the waiting room is relaxed. Even if the patients are not paying attention to the music; they can hear it and their children can hear it. Any music you play should be toned down and never have loud, offensive lyrics.  If a patient walks into your urgent care and is immediately overwhelmed by the music playing, odds are it’s too loud and inappropriate for the medical setting.

Patient Experiences Determine Long-term Success

Urgent care facilities succeed when loyal patients return for services themselves and tell others to do likewise. Think back to the mother in the waiting room frustrated by the blaring music and offensive TV programming.  Is she going to recommend your urgent care to all of her other friends with children?  And, moreover, is she going to leave reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, or other social media websites that will be seen by thousands? Most likely not and your staff’s choice in music could diminish a huge potential client base for your center.


So, now you realize the importance of creating a healing environment. You decide to change the music in your office. You change the station to classical music that plays quietly overhead. You ensure the television is on a station that is not offensive.  In fact, many urgent care operators control the media in their centers by physically locking the channel and volume controls so they cannot be changed by staff.

Now, imagine that same mother comes in to your urgent care. She is carrying her child, who has been sick with fever. She sits down and begins to rock her child to peaceful, classical music playing over the intercom. She looks up at the television and there is a family-friendly programming. How much more likely is she going to think this is a professional, healing environment? How much more likely is she going to refer all of her friends to your urgent care?

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Practice Velocity, LLC

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