The Doctor’s Waiting Room

I went to the doctor’s last week and was surprised to learn that Ford are about to phase out the Escort and a young fellow by the name of Tony Blair is tipped to be our next Prime Minister. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but if you’ve ever sat in a medical waiting room of any kind, you can’t fail to have noticed that the magazines are rarely current.

It’s something the medical profession have noticed too and The British Medical Journal recently published a study by a professor Bruce Arroll from The University of Aukland in New Zealand who set out to see what was going on.

Motivated by his own frustration, Professor Arroll purchased 87 magazines, including non-gossipy ones like Time magazine, the Economist, and National Geographic, and gossipy ones, which he defined as having five or more photographs of celebrities on the front cover, and placed them in a family practice office in Aukland.

Forty seven of the magazines were less than 60 days old, while the rest were between 3 and 12 months old. Each magazine was individually tagged and monitored twice a week. The purpose of the study was to find out if the new or old magazines disappeared first, to measure the rate of loss, and to determine if the type of magazine affected the rate of loss.

After a month, the results were analysed. 47% of the magazines had disappeared. 59% of the recent magazines had disappeared versus 27% of the older ones. The gossipy magazines disappeared at a rate fourteen times higher than the non-gossipy ones. Of the 27 gossipy magazines, only one was left.

The authors of the study concluded that doctors could save money by only offering old copies of the Economist and Time magazine. It’s an interesting recommendation and one that could be improved by suggesting that they only have copies of magazines written in Swahili. Maybe Tesco could embrace the principle and reduce their own ‘shrinkage’ by only stocking crap which nobody wants. Or better still, clear the shelves. That’ll stop the buggers.

I don’t suppose doctors are marketing people though, so they’re probably not that interested in giving people a better experience. Nor are they that interested in what the research actually means, But I am.

If you take the fact that gossipy magazines are fourteen times more likely to disappear from doctors waiting rooms than serious ones, what does that actually imply? What might it imply? Is it obvious? Give it a bit of thought before scrolling down to see some of the things I think it might mean…

  1. Gossip magazines are generally more interesting than serious magazines.
  2. Ill people are more interested in gossip magazines than serious magazines.
  3. People who are interested in gossip magazines are more likely to steal than people who are interested in serious magazines.
  4. People who are interested in serious magazines are wealthier and have no reason to steal magazines.
  5. People who are interested in gossip magazines have worse health than people who are interested in serious magazines.
  6. People value gossip magazines less than serious magazines and so are more prepared to steal them
  7. People value gossip magazines more than serious magazines and so are more likely to steal them.
  8. Gossipy magazine fans are slower readers than serious magazine fans.
  9. Doctors patients buy lots of serious magazines and have no reason to steal them.
  10. Gossipy magazines are just more popular than serious magazines. The rate of disappearance is in line with sales volumes.

There are probably plenty more possible conclusions, (and I’d love to hear what you think they might be) and that’s the problem with research of all kinds…it’s very easy to jump on the most obvious meaning when the truth might be far more complex. Without further research, it’s impossible to conclude anything concrete from the study which might answer the simple question – why? The truth may be a combination of several factors.

Whenever you see the results of a study or piece of research, it’s worth giving serious thought to what it might actually mean. Seizing on the first – and most obvious conclusions – can send you down blind alleys and cause you to miss things that are a little more subtle but a lot more useful. You might return to the most obvious conclusion, but having picked up many useful insights along the way.

In our own reception area at Streetwise we have solved the problem of theft completely by only having copies of my own books available to read. I just checked and we appear to have more there now than when we started!

2 thoughts on “The Doctor’s Waiting Room

  1. Roy Aylmer

    You say, “Maybe Tesco could embrace the principle and reduce their own ‘shrinkage’ by only stocking crap which nobody wants. Or better still, clear the shelves. ”
    I have a photo of a Tesco price label for
    I can send you the image if your system will accept attachments


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