Getting the Your Medical Office Space Right

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From Dimensions to Design, Getting the Your Medical Office Space Right

When setting up your medical practice, one of the things you likely hadn’t thought about in medical school, or even much after, is the interior design quality of the medical practice.

But, design considerations extend well beyond picking the right exam tables that really bring out those waiting area benches.

You’ll need to think about a number of things from the practical, like the size of the space and what equipment needs to be included, to the softer, yet still important details, like creating a space that makes patients feel calm and comfortable.

To help you out, here’s a quick look at some information that’ll make this overwhelming process just a bit easier.

Look at What You Have

We talked to Sumul Gandhi, a Mohs surgeon who just started his own practice this past year. He mentioned when he arrived at his medical practice, the rooms came equipped with classic wood-lined exam tables, as well as a waiting area with benches. Immediately, Gandhi and the administrative staff knew this space needed to be modernized, as patients have come to expect a certain level of comfort when they go to a specialist.

The examination tables were soon replaced by reclining, blue, electronically adjustable procedure chairs, while the benches were ultimately scrapped from each room to create more space. While in Gandhi’s case, he was able to replace the furniture that came with the space, you may want to consider keeping some of the items like storage cabinets or tables, as it can save you some additional costs.

Gandhi and his team also redid all the flooring, replacing an older brown carpet with modern-looking hardwood floors. A patient waiting room was created with a frosted plexiglass divide used to separate waiting space from the clinic rooms.  And finally, a histopathology lab with negative pressure ventilation was created from the old blood draw lab by creation of a vacuum from the room to the exterior of the building.

Consider the Limitations of the Space

If you’ve got larger exam rooms, there’s less to worry about, but with smaller spaces, adopting a minimalist approach is key in making sure both the doctor and the patient have enough room to breathe. It’s hard to perform a routine checkup, much less any kind of procedure in a room that has been overrun by medical equipment.

In Gandhi’s case, the medical group decided to convert an existing allergy suite with eight clinic rooms and an adjacent blood draw area could be turned into a full-fledged dermatology clinic. But that wasn’t without any challenges.

Each room in the allergy suite was only about 10 x 15 feet, leaving little room to be wasted. He says, “our rooms contain nothing more than a small work area with multiple drawers and cabinets but not much else. We placed our chairs in the center of the room parallel to the long axis of the room.”  This type of arrangement allows for a more spacious feel, and ample room for Gandhi and a staff member to move around while performing a procedure. Central placement of the chairs doesn’t allow for much in terms of additional furniture, so pairing down to the essentials is imperative.

“Despite all these designs, we still had two major issues.  First, we had wires and plugs everywhere that were getting tangled and causing patients and staff to trip.  Additionally, our overhead lights had a pivot that was only about 5 foot 10 inches off the ground, which was problematic since I’m 6 foot 2 inches and hit my head a number of times on the solid steel support. Thankfully, our building staff was able to funnel allow our plugs and cords under a rubber cord protector and raised the light pivot to 6 foot 5 inches,” says Gandhi.

Mohs practices can be set up in general medicine clinics with much ease, as long the surgical supplies are present along with portable electrosurgery units with possible smoke evacuation devices, along with a small space to process tissue. Other types of practices may require a bit more equipment or storage space for supplies.

Be Mindful of the Details

Ultimately, budgeting constraints can end up dictating a lot of what goes into setting up your exam rooms, waiting rooms and all the small stuff in between. But, keep in mind, you don’t want to skimp on quality. Patients take a look at the furniture and the facility and will make their own judgements based on that visual information.

Art work is important, but you don’t have to break the bank. For example, rather than buy cheap printed canvases from a Target or an Ikea, consider buying original artwork from a local art student or buying prints instead of paintings. Small details like water fountains with calm bubbling sounds can also be a welcome addition to the space.

Keep in mind, a clean office with a soothing color scheme can really go a long way in making patients feel calm and cared for, especially if they’re going through a stressful time in their lives. Colors in the blue or green family can have a profound impact on the senses.

Remember, a Medical Practice is Still a Business

While it’s nice to think about a world in which a patient judges a practice on the quality of care they receive, remember, you’re still running a business and first impressions, no matter how superficial do make a difference. In this day and age, a patient will spread the word if they are happy with their overall experience — ultimately driving business through referrals.

Please refer to other articles related to this topic.

Starting a Dermatology Practice: Interview with Dr. Sumul Gandhi, MD, MBA, MPH

Building a Referral Base for Your New Medical Practice

How to Choose the Right Staff for Your Medical Practice

From Dimensions to Design, Getting the Your Medical Office Space Right

3 Comments

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  1. Keeping some of the items like storage cabinets or tables seems like a great way to save on cost. Being able to continue using equipment would help you be able to buy other things necessary for your medical office. I would imagine that you’d want to test out the tables and other medical equipment to see if it is still good to use and if it isn’t then you should probably buy new items that will work for your office.

  2. @ Tiffany Locke – Great point! Thanks for your insight!

  3. You said that if you have a large exam room then there is less to worry about. I’ll need to remember that people need to worry about space if someone that I know needs help. Asking a professional might be a good way to find out where you could put all of the medical equipment.

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