When you want to set up your medical office for success, it will require significant planning and attention to detail. A comfortable clinic that is well-designed and well-equipped facilitates better patient care and greater professional satisfaction.
Throughout the course of your career you will spend a great deal of time in your office. A comfortable and pleasant working environment can help you provide more effective and efficient patient care, decrease stress for you and your staff, and support your goals for business growth.
A physician’s office design requirements varies greatly depending on his or her specialty. A family physician or pediatrician, for example, requires a much more complex office set-up than a psychiatrist. But regardless of specialty, you have a vested interest in creating a “home away from home” that is personally and professionally comfortable, managed effectively, and designed with your unique business needs in mind.
Your Office: The Physical environment In Which Your Work
This section will help you develop your own checklist of questions to ask and concerns to address when setting up your own medical office.
When evaluating an office setting, it may be helpful to divide the clinic into the following components:
- Public access areas, including parking facilities, lobbies, elevators, corridors, and common area washrooms
- Patient areas, such as the waiting room and internal washroom for patient use
- Office reception and administration areas
- Examination and procedural areas
- Private spaces for physicians and staff
- Other healthcare services, including pharmacy, lab, diagnostic services, etc.
You can use the following questions as a basis to help you evaluate each area of a medical office or clinic:
Patient Areas Checklist
How often do physicians enter a clinic or office through the waiting room? In many cases there is a private entrance into the office, and as a result, an uncomfortable or poorly-maintained waiting room may go unnoticed. Even the most efficient and organized physicians might run behind from time to time. When that happens, your patients will appreciate any effort to make their wait more comfortable.
- How many patients and their companions can be accommodated at one time?
- Is there adequate space for coat and shoe racks? Can the entrance door be opened without impeding access?
- Can patients conveniently access hand sanitizer and masks, if necessary, on arrival?
- Is there a sufficient number of comfortable chairs, with adequate space in between each?
- Does the waiting area accommodate accessible seating requirement?
- Is there an unobstructed path to the reception desk?
- Is there a television or sound system that can be controlled by the office staff?
- Is there a children’s play area?
- Is there a washroom for patient use?
Office Reception and Administration Areas
Consider the range of tasks for which the office administrators are responsible, beginning with a patient’s first call into the office. It’s well-known that a significant amount of the work of patient care is completed by the multitasking support staff. If the office is well run, physicians can dedicate their time to clinical work, focusing solely on the aspects of care for which they are expertly qualified.
Well-designed reception and administrative areas, with design features that support efficient and effective work, present significant benefits to your staff and patients, and can improve the overall flow of your business.
- Is the reception area easily accessed by patients, including those who require accessibility accommodations?
- Is there adequate room for staff members to receive and discharge patients?
- Are patients afforded privacy when they register, ask questions, or pay for uninsured services?
- Does the space allow for private dialogue among staff members?
- Is there adequate room for employees to get up and move around without disturbing one another?
- Are the working areas ergonomically designed to maximize function and minimize repetitive strain injury (RSI)?
- Have you provided staff with adjustable, ergonomically-designed chairs?
- Are phone, computer, fax, and other communications systems effectively positioned to maximize efficiency?
- Does the area have adequate lighting?
- Are there designated spaces away from the reception area where staff can complete administrative work?
- If the office is open concept, can privacy obligations be respected?
- Is there a requirement for hard-copy patient file storage? Does the storage set-up and retrieval protocol meet patient privacy standards?
- If hard-copy patient files are used, are they within easy reach to retrieve/re-file?
- Do the electrical/connectivity services in the reception and administrative areas accommodate an electronic medical records (EMR) system?
- Is there adequate, easily accessible storage available for office supplies?
Examination and Procedure Rooms
Gone are the days when physicians spend hours working in dreary, too-small examination rooms, with inadequate lighting and outdated equipment. In recent years, clinical and healthcare related spaces have increasingly been designed with the comfort of both patient and physician in mind.
Your working space is where you will spend many hours, and for that reason it is important to invest in your practice environment and make it as functional and comfortable as it can be.
- Do the room dimensions comfortably accommodate the patient and at least one companion, as well as any staff, technicians, or other physicians who may be in the room at the same time?
- Does the room provide the space required for an exam table, sink, desk, equipment, supplies, and anything else needed for consulting with/examining patients?
- Can all rooms in the clinic function for multiple purposes (e.g. consults, exams, procedures), so that neither you nor your patients need to wait for a particular room to be available?
- Is there enough space for patients to disrobe in privacy, a place to store their clothing, and convenient access to gowns?
- Do the window coverings guarantee privacy? Reflective film on the windows provides privacy on bright/sunny days, but is not effective if it is dark outside. Effective privacy blinds/window coverings are essential to achieve guaranteed privacy.
- Are exam room doors positioned and hinged appropriately so that occupants are not exposed when the door is opened for the physician to enter the room?
- Do the clinic rooms provide access to natural light?
- Does the electrical supply meet the requirements of the equipment in the room? Are there an adequate number of outlets, positioned appropriately to facilitate ideal equipment placement?
- Are regular waste and hazardous waste containers placed for easy access by physicians and staff, but safely out of easy of patients?
- Are sinks conveniently positioned in the exam room for ready access by the physician?
- Does the space plan incorporate design features that can minimize the number of steps and movements required to complete all tasks (in order to save time and reduce repetitive strain injury)?