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The simplest way to create a powerful first impression with your patients


The probability that your family doctor will need to make heroic efforts at your next visit is very low. That’s because you are most likely to go with a minor self limiting illness and the best she will be able to do is reassure you that the rash, cough, discharge or fever will resolve in a few days. She might recommend paracetamol, rest or exercise and above all apply judicious tincture of time. You will leave the room feeling better or decide that you have wasted time. Either way it will influence how you feel about going back to see that doctor and inform your opinion about whether it was worth the dollars you, the funder and or the government invested in that visit.

A desk, chair and a couch furnish most consulting rooms. How that furniture is arranged may have an impact on how you feel about being in that space. We know that posture, eye contact and verbal communication matters. However we might also consider that where we sit in a room, and what we sit on also influences the interaction. This is true of boardrooms but it also applies when there are only two at a desk. There are three factors in raising perceived status and power using chairs: the size of the chair and its accessories, the height of the chair from the floor and the location of the chair relative to the other person. Executive chairs, the kind the doctor might sit on are bought because they are perceived to convey authority. ( OK, may be also because they are comfortable). But nonetheless they create an impression:

The height of the back of the chair raises or lowers a person’s status…the senior executive has a high backed leather chair and his visitor’s chair has a lower back.

Therefore from the moment the person enters the room they glean the impression that they are less important than the person in another spot. Unlike the situation where the seating arrangements make the person feel valued.

Picture by Cacau & Xande

First impressions are the love-at-first-sight of the business world.

If you are a doctor have you ever considered letting the patient have the high back leather chair? How doctors position themselves physically relative to the patient matters. There is some evidence in the literature but there’s nothing better than trying it yourself.

Patients commonly perceive that a provider has spent more time at their bedside when the provider sits rather than stands. Swayden et al

The perception that the doctor is spending more time is important because in some cases there isn’t more time available.  There is not much doctors can do in the short term about healthcare policy or resourcing. However just by changing the seating arrangements in the consulting room they can convey to patients that they matter. That’s before they even begin the consult. I’ve tried it, I think it works.

Picture by banlon1964

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