After having been part of starting a medical practice a number of times, I’ve learned a thing or two about what goes into it. Here I’ll cover critical items in designing medical office floor plans. Things with a huge impact on the flow and operation of your practice.
Medical office floor plans require a lot more consideration, research, planning, and soul searching than one might think. Trust me, you must thoroughly plan for the future. A medical office is not what it used to be! Online video patient visits, anyone? A clinic floor plan needs to support the function of the delivery of healthcare in a changing environment.
The medical office floor plans that are comfortable for patients, have efficient operations, fit the criteria for your practice, lend themselves to an EHR and new technology, and are cost-effective and attractive, take some work.
Eleven questions with direct impact on a medical office’s floor plan layout
- What type of practice do you have?
- What is your workflow – How does patient traffic flow – access and egress?
- How can you increase the efficiency of your staff – saving steps?
- What is the number of patients seen per day and the number of staff required?
- What types of procedures are performed in the office?
- What types and number of spaces do you need? Exam Rooms, Procedure rooms, waiting areas, central stations, storage, desk spaces, and physicians’ spaces.
- What types of equipment do you have? Diagnostic testing equipment, X-Ray, Lab analyzers, scanners, copiers, faxes, computers, etc.
- How much storage do you really need? (More than you think!)
- How much growth do you anticipate? Will you need more space in a year?
- What are the Federal, State, and local regulations for your practice?
- Are there HIPAA implications in the design of space? (The short answer is Yes!)
Medical office floor plans used to be simply designed, usually in a rectangle, with an entrance, waiting room, hallway to the exam rooms, doctor’s offices, business offices, and an exit. That worked quite well for a number of years, but with the advent of so many changes in medicine, the clinic design has to be more efficient, flexible, convenient, and adjust to changing (handheld) technologies being used by patients and providers.
In addition, patients are much more aware of how an office “feels” when they visit. Is it stressful or is it serene? By far, if your office is attractive, comfortable and serene, you will have happier, healthier patients. First impressions do count!
How do well-planned medical office floor plans look?
- They are comfortable for patients and are appealing as soon as they enter. The reception area is designed so the front desk is easily seen from the door and the receptionist can see all the patients. There is enough space to be relaxing.
- Is the waiting room equipped with Wi-Fi? Will you use electronic kiosks (tablet computers or more elaborate stations), and if so, are they located with patient privacy in mind?
- Workspaces are designed with the efficiency of the number of steps taken into consideration.
- Doctor’s offices may not be individual but in cubicles or pods. The most cost-effective use of space is to use as much area for patient care as possible.
- Pods are very efficient for larger groups so that each physician only has to travel within a small area of three or four rooms with workstations in the same area.
- Re-imagine areas for testing. You may need a separate waiting area for testing so that the main waiting room does not seem like it is crowded.
- Exam rooms are designed for patient comfort and privacy.
- The doors open in and the exam table is not in direct view of the hall. There is enough room for patient, family member, assistant, and physician. A 10 ft. X 10 ft. space often fulfills these criteria.
- There is easy entry and exit with the availability of privacy for the patient at checkout and a private area for patient scheduling and/or monetary issues. Emergency exits are planned to code.
- There may be a triage area. Will a small area for triage improve your patient flow? (For taking vitals and input of information into an EHR).
- Décor is durable, comfortable, and appealing. You may even want to consider distractions such as special lighting, waterfall or artwork.
How does technology affect the planning of medical office floor plans?
A complete medical practice business plan may be worth the time and energy to complete. You will find there are many other areas necessary to think about besides the actual floor plan. The first and foremost area is your EHR. Are you going to have PCs, laptops, tablets or a health app? In addition, you have to plan the backbone of the system. How should the hardwire and/or wireless systems to be laid out? The last thing you want is a “dead” space where you do not get wireless reception. Plan for the most efficient use of your technology. You will need it.
Other areas of technology to consider are:
- Lighting: Soft inpatient areas and bright in work areas.
- Electrical: What does your equipment require? 110V – 220V?
- Acoustical privacy: Protect your patients’ conversations.
- Location and number of electrical outlets, switches, doors, cabinets, view boxes, sharps containers, sanitizer dispensers, and sinks.
Consider Federal, State, and Local regulations
ADA regulations will dictate some of your spaces. Some of these areas are:
- Height and location of counters
- Size and location of the restroom
- Width of hallways
- Accessibility and “turnaround” space in exam/testing rooms (30” X 48”)
- Width of door openings (32”)
Do you need shielding for your X-Ray? Do you need a clean and dirty area? Do you need an automatic door opening? Even your building may have certain requirements.
Medical Office Floor Plans are best completed with the help of your staff members
Your staff members know a lot about how patient flow should go and where steps can be saved. During your planning ask for their ideas and opinions. Taking advantage of their expertise will not only get you some great ideas, but you will have better involvement and acceptance of the new spaces. You can also look to the web for new innovations in design, and find general practice start-up issues to consider.
Finally, …plan, plan and plan some more. Collect design ideas and layout examples. The better you plan, the fewer cost increases and less disappointment you will have in your final product. Ask for professional help. Ask someone who knows how to operate a medical office . . . it will be worth the investment in time and money.