December 13, 2014

Why are Magazines So Old in Doctor Waiting Rooms?

It certainly is a complaint in our practice... Why is it that magazines in doctor waiting rooms (including ours) tend to be so outdated??? And not just old, but the "boring" ones? One factor is that an office staff member has been negligent in replacing old magazines with new ones. Another is that... gasp... patients are stealing the new ones???

Researchers in New Zealand set out to study this common complaint and did find that new magazines tend to "disappear" resulting in waiting rooms that mainly contained old magazines.

The study was conducted by tracking 87 magazines of various ages placed in a waiting room including both gossipy (celebrity photos on the cover) and non-gossipy types (Economist, Time, National Geographic, etc).

What did they find out???

After 31 days, 41 of the original 87 magazines had disappeared. More to the point regarding outdated magazines in the waiting room... 60% of magazines less then 2 months old disappeared after 31 days.

Of those that disappeared, it tended to be the gossipy ones. Using the hazard ratio, on any one day the gossipy magazines disappeared 14.51 times faster than the non-gossipy ones. This basically equates to 1.32 magazines disappearing per day. In fact, by the end of the study, only one gossipy magazine was still left, the rest having "disappeared," presumably taken out of the office by a patient.

So if gossipy and newer magazines tend to disappear... than not surprisingly over time, that will tend to leave waiting rooms with old and boring magazines... and fairly quickly.

Take home message???

Doctor offices do NOT deliberately stock old boring magazines in the waiting rooms. It's because the new and gossipy magazines are being pilfered as quickly as they get put out.

An exploration of the basis for patient complaints about the oldness of magazines in practice waiting rooms: cohort study. BMJ 2014;349:g7262
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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