Remodeling or setting up a new medical or dental 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 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 Dave Heaney, President at Healthcare Facilities Solutions (HFS), an architectural firm specializing in the design of medical and dental offices. "Of course, aesthetics are important," Heaney 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," Heaney added.
When working with a client, whether to expand or remodel an existing office or to design a new one, HFS first identifies the number or providers and staff who will be working in the facility. Then, depending on the type of practice, they determine how many patients will be seen on a typical day.
"It's the ratio of providers and patients that determines the space to be allotted," Heaney explains. "Then. we have to make sure the available space and structure are 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 that influence healthcare office design involve compliance with local building codes, as well as ADA and HIPAA 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," Heaney explained. "That's why many of our clients come to us before they sign a lease or purchase a new space, so that they can be sure that the location they are considering will be able to accommodate all of their needs."
When it comes to designing healthcare offices effectively, "the design has long-term effects on productivity and ultimately the profitability of the practice," according to Heaney. "Committing to do it right from the start not only leads to a well-designed office, but it also results in increased efficiency, staff retention, and patient care, as well as retention. Ultimately, the return on investment in specialized design is a more profitable practice."