Space Planning Is Critical For Efficient Medical or Dental Office Design

Remodeling or setting up a new medical office is a complex process. When it comes to deciding how much space is needed, it’s not just a matter of simple square footage. It is how the space is utilized that can actually impact, not only the efficiency, but also the profitability of the office.

“Most people, including physicians and dentists, think of the image and aesthetics of their office first,” according to Jessica Donnelly, interior design director at Healthcare Facilities Solutions (HFS), an architectural firm specializing in design of medical offices. “Of course aesthetics are important,” Donnelly said, “but what people often don’t realize is the intrinsic value of flow and how it impacts overhead.

“An office that is functioning smoothly, with a good traffic pattern for patients and staff, maximizes efficiency,” Donnelly added.
When working with a client, whether to re-model an existing office or to design a new one, Donnelly first identifies the number of physicians and staff who will be working in the facility. Then, depending on the type of practice, she determines how many patients will be seen on a typical day.

“It’s the ratio of doctors and patients that determines the space to be allotted,” Donnelly explains. “Then we have to make sure that the available space and structure is sufficient to accommodate the anticipated occupancy and flow. It’s not just a matter of simple math. The space has to ‘work’ so the office works.”

Other factors which influence medical office design involve compliance with local building codes, as well as ADA and HIPPA requirements, environmental concerns and the need to accommodate specialized equipment. Fire and safety codes also have to be taken into consideration.

“Not being aware of how all of these regulations govern and will ultimately impact the use of space from the outset, can lead to costly mistakes,” Donnelly explained. “That’s why many of our clients come to us before they sign a lease for new space, just so they can be sure that the location they are considering will be able to accommodate all of their needs.”

When it comes to designing medical offices effectively, “the design has long term effects on productivity and ultimately the profitability of the practice” according to HFS president David Heaney. “Committing to do it right from the start not only leads to a well-designed office, it also results in increased efficiency, staff retention and patient satisfaction. Ultimately, the return on the investment in specialized architecture and design is a more profitable practice.”