The UX of Outpatient Waiting Rooms

A system to keep patients’ families updated

Recently I accompanied a loved one to Stanford Hospital for an outpatient procedure. Generally when you wait for someone during surgery you are left to wonder where you family member is for a couple of hours. I encountered a system at Stanford that reduced any guessing down to a minimum.




Before the procedure, I was given a piece of paper with a 5 – 6 digit number which was assigned to my family member who was having the procedure. In the waiting area, there were two large screens that displayed the numbers assigned to all the patients who were having surgery. Each number has a different background color that changes depending on where a patient is during the different phases of surgery.

At each stage of surgery, patients are checked into a different phase by staff using a system called Epic. This event-driven system then translates the surgery stage into one of the color codes on the screen. Family members can tell where their family member is by looking at the patient’s number on the screen and the corresponding color on the guide at the side of the screen. For example yellow means the patient is being prepped for surgery, green means the patient is in surgery etc. The system allows people to know what stage of surgery their loved one is in at a glance. It’s a way of passively displaying information that is already being gathered through the event-driven software.




Caring, attentive human interaction + Informative UI  = Great experience

Next to the procedure screens and waiting area is a desk with 1-2 hospital staff. After your family member goes into surgery, you check in with them and they’ll explain the system to you. If you have questions at any point about your loved one, they call the surgery team and find out what’s happening. Or sometimes, they get notified with new information and come over to let you know. The hospital staff also help facilitate communication between the patients’ families and the doctors. A couple of times, I noticed a hospital staffperson walk a doctor over to family members to make sure they were found. The notification system works well because 1) it reduces any confusion on the part of family members about their loved one and 2) people can tell where their family member is without a lot of effort. If they need more information, helpful hospital staff are nearby and ready to answer questions. It’s a great system for all involved.