Planning and designing your medical office

An important component of a successful medical practice is the right medical office. Location, size, efficiency and comfort are essential to your business’ success. As in all things, the details will dictate the outcome. So, it’s important to properly plan the layout of your new medical office.

A medical office differs from a traditional office. It functions more like a reception area at a luxury hotel. It is the hub that provides direction, information, billing, payment and appointment scheduling. This hub should efficiently and comfortably handle the large number of people who come and go. It is essential that it make a good first impression with your patients. It is also essential that the staff can continue to efficiently perform accounting, filing and secretarial operations as well.

A medical office also functions as a warehouse for a wide assortment of supplies ranging from tongue depressors and medications, to patient files, all of which need to be readily available, carefully handled and properly stored.

Taking into consideration the need for sufficient space, accessibility, efficient work space for staff and patient’s comfort will contribute to the success of your operation. With this in mind, here’s how to plan your perfect medical space:

• Make your waiting room comfortable and inviting. Not only is this the first impression for new patients, it also impacts the mindset of the existing patient. Make the experience positive.

Unfortunately, most patients do not look forward to doctor visits. It is best to avoid cold and cavernous waiting rooms. Small waiting rooms are more efficient and comfortable. The space should be well lit and décor should be warm, colorful and interesting. Thoughtful appointments such as drinking water, current reading materials and a television will go a long way to making patients more relaxed about their visit and unexpected long waits easier to tolerate.

• Make your reception/administration area large enough for multi-tasking. This area of the office is generally the most diverse in its functions. It should be sized to accommodate patient reception, payment billing and/or receipt, accounting, patient files and appointment scheduling. Also, it is best to be prepared for future success. As your patient base increases, you will need more space.

• Look for ways to minimize foot traffic. This will also minimize noise and other distractions. A preliminary exam station can be very effective in reducing hallway traffic. Locate it somewhere just beyond the waiting area. Here, staff can perform basic tasks such as taking temperatures and vital signs before escorting patients to an exam room. If the space is going to have internal restrooms, place these up front and close to the preliminary exam room. This will allow patients who require lab work only to be cared for without having to walk through exam space and other rooms of activity.

• Lay out examination rooms efficiently. Staff members are a great source for suggestions on ways in which to improve these areas. Minimally, exam rooms should incorporate uniformity, storage space and display of supplies. They should have writing surfaces for physicians and privacy for patients. If your space will have a view, consider placing these where patients can enjoy it. This can have a calming effect while they wait.

• Keep it warm and comfortable throughout the office. The purpose of your office is to provide medical care to your patients. The office environment as a whole may play a role in patients’ healing and in their attitude toward physicians and staff. Therefore, your selection of office furnishings, wall decorations, lighting and color palate is integral to the patient’s overall experience and perceptions of well-being. Consider these details and seek the advice of an interior designer if necessary.

• Use a space planning tool. There is a variety of diagramming software available on the market that will help you design your space. However, if you are considering a specific building, it probably has an architect that uses CADD (computer aided design and drafting software) to create tenant space plans. The architect utilizing CADD can create, modify, analyze and optimize a design that fits your specific needs.

As the leasing representative of several medical office buildings, Stringer Realty Services provides this service free to prospective tenants in order to determine how much space is needed and where it would best fit within a specific building. This can be an invaluable amenity.

If your medical office is properly designed and efficiently sized, it will increase patient and staff comfort, reduce staff fatigue, meet your patients’ healthcare needs, demonstrate your professionalism and ultimately save you money.

Wayne E. Stringer is a commercial real estate broker with 24 years of experience in the industry. He specializes in medical office building brokerage, management, leasing and tenant representation. Contact him at 305-256-1261, 305-772- 2801.

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