Medical clinics are often at a disadvantage when it comes to finding adequate office space. Most commercial space is designed with retail businesses or conventional offices in mind. Neither of those layouts is ideal for medical clinics. As a result, medical practices often have to improvise when it comes to their medical office design. Sometimes that can mean trying to adapt a less traditional layout to meet your clinic’s needs, or trying to make a smaller-than-ideal health space work for a growing practice.
Either way, there are many situations in which your practice might need to find ways to maximize space with your medical office design. We have a few suggestions to help you get the most out of your health space.
Use Your Exam Rooms Strategically
One of the biggest factors in determining the revenue of a medical clinic is the number of patients they can see. Using your exam rooms efficiently is important in order to allow your staff to see patients in a timely manner. For practices struggling with space issues, one of the best ways to optimize space and increase efficiency may this: assign small groups of rooms to individual practitioners and support staff.
First, take some time to determine how many exam rooms an individual practitioner can reasonably manage at once. Two or three rooms per practitioner is a good benchmark. Then, make sure each practitioner and their support staff have a dedicated group of rooms, all located together, that they can use for their patients.
"Two or three rooms per practitioner is a good benchmark."
Staff can arrange and familiarize themselves with their exam rooms in whatever ways suit them and their patients best. Assigning groups of rooms to individual practitioners and their support staff allows them to move quickly between rooms to see patients, and work efficiently in spaces they are familiar with.
Extra exam rooms can then be spaced out between the grouped rooms to act as shared ‘flex’ rooms. These flex rooms can be used by any staff member to see additional patients when other exam rooms are still in use. This increased efficiency can improve patient throughput and reduce patient wait times. It also frees up further space in the waiting room and improves overall patient satisfaction.
Rethink Your Storage Options
Finding adequate storage can often be a challenge for medical clinics when space is tight. Finding jars of tongue depressors in the break room when you’re looking for coffee isn’t ideal, to say the least. Instead, it might be worth it to brainstorm creative solutions for your storage needs.
Many practices prefer to centralize their supplies in one big storage area, but finding a room or closet big enough for all of your supplies might not be easy. Other practices prefer to keep each individual exam room fully stocked, but again space for storage may be limited depending on the exam rooms.
So what is the solution? Here are two options:
- If you have a group of dedicated exam rooms for each doctor, you could try designating a central room as a smaller exam space with increased storage to supplement the other rooms in that group.
- You could even use portable storage, putting all extra supplies on carts that can be wheeled from room to room as needed.
The right solutions will depend on your individual medical office and needs.
Decentralize Your Workstations
Many medical clinics fall prey to thinking traditionally when it comes to medical office design. They group all of the office equipment in the receptionist area, and they set up one space as the nurses’ station, another for the doctors’ work area. This traditional way of thinking and grouping your workstations together may not actually be the most efficient use of space.
When staff need to go to central hubs for specific tasks, bottlenecks tend to form and space tends to get crowded and cluttered. Consider decentralizing your workstations instead. Look around at the busiest areas in your office, and determine what is causing the pileups. Then think of ways that you can break up the workspaces more efficiently.
"Look around at the busiest areas in your office, and determine what is causing the pileups."
For example, it might make more sense to place traditional “office equipment” like a fax machine back by the doctors or nurse practitioners. This alternative setup could allow medical staff to deal with requests for prescription renewals without having to be called to the receptionist desk; getting in the way as patients are being checked in. Instead of keeping all of your fax machines, printers, files, and office supplies and computers in the front office by the receptionist, think about moving some of those resources back to the medical staffs’ work areas.
In addition to (or instead of) central nurses’ or doctors’ station, you can also create mini-stations near exam rooms or other support staff workstations. These areas can provide quick, easily accessible places staff can stop to write notes, review patient history, or double check medications. Staff won’t have to walk all the way back to their main work area where they will bump elbows with everyone else. Instead, this frees up both time and space.
- Many medical practices have to deal with inadequate office layouts or office size. In order to maximize your use of space, it’s important to optimize your medical office design.
- Assign individual practitioners and their support staff to a few exam rooms grouped close together. Customize them, allowing them to see patients efficiently and move quickly between rooms.
- Consider many different storage solutions and how they might free up space in your office. You can try keeping supplies in each exam room, a central supply closet, or portable supply carts.