Test Fit Essential Prior to Signing Medical Office Lease

An exhaustive search for a medical or dental office could end as a costly disaster if the doctor or dentist doesn’t turn to a medical office design specialist to do a test fit to make sure the space can efficiently accommodate the practice. That’s why many building owners and commercial realtors working with medical and dental professionals often provide or suggest a test fit or rough layout of a space to make sure it meets the potential client’s needs.

This relatively simple and quick rough layout of the space under consideration can quickly reveal if the space is appropriate, or if it will be a costly mistake for both parties to proceed with an office that will not effectively accommodate the needs of the practice.
In these circumstances, it is wise to make sure that the architect doing the test fit is a specialist -- a professional familiar with the unique concerns and requirements for a physician’s office or building.

The test fit for a medical office is not a simple matter of mathematics – so many offices, at so many square feet. Aside from the obvious basics like number of employees, work stations, offices and examination rooms required, there are a host of other important considerations. They start right at the front door at the entrance to the waiting room. In addition to ADA requirements which impact all offices, physicians must be concerned with HIPAA requirements to protect patient privacy. The waiting area, as well as offices and exam rooms, must be designed for patient comfort and privacy.

Traffic flow into and throughout the office is also critical for optimum productivity. Staff and physicians must have the space they need to work efficiently as they move throughout the office. Flow is also important when planning for patient movement into the office, to the examination and/or consultation rooms and then out again. Hallways may need to be wider in orthopedic offices, for example, for patients who are in wheelchairs or need assistance moving from place-to-place.

Another big area of concern when doing a test fit centers around local building codes and requirements for medical offices. These are especially critical when considering space in older buildings or areas. Often current codes do not support the needs of a modern medical practice. Or, at best, they necessitate expensive adaptive measures. It is important to have this information before entering into a lease agreement.

When medical professionals consider leasing new office space it is vitally important to know the unique and specific requirements of the practice, not just the amount of space that is required. How that space will be used, the adequacy of existing plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems and even positioning of weight bearing supports will determine how suitable the space is for medical use and equipment.

A test fit will not only determine if the space is adequate for the proposed use, it will also point out what building modifications may be necessary. That information can influence lease negotiations, especially when determining the need for significant improvements as part of the fit-out. The degree to which the owner is willing to make improvements and how the costs will be handled can have a significant impact, not only on total construction costs, but also the cost of the lease.

Establishing, expanding or moving to a new office is a strategic and business decision for medical practitioners. But, their expertise is medicine. They have to rely on the expertise of professionals in real estate, architecture and design to assist them in making the right decisions.

Just as location, proximity to patients, hospitals, major highways and support facilities are important, a test fit of the selected space, by someone familiar with the unique attributes of a medical office and local codes, is an essential part of due diligence for the office search.