Selecting the wrong space for your medical or dental office could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars if the physician or dentist doesn't turn to a healthcare 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 quick and straightforward 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 designer doing the test fit is a specialist -- a professional familiar with the unique concerns and requirements for a physicians' or dentist's office or building.
The test fit for a medical or dental office is not a simple matter of mathematics – so many offices, at so many square feet. Aside from the obvious basics like the 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 and dentists 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 providers must have the space they need to work efficiently as they move throughout the office. Flow is also important when planning for patient movement throughout the office. From reception check-in to clinical, checkout-out, and 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 important area of concern when doing a test fit involves local and national building codes and requirements for medical offices. These are especially critical when considering space in older areas of buildings. Often current codes do not support the needs of a modern healthcare practice. Or, at best, they necessitate expensive adaptive measures. It is important to have this information before entering into a lease agreement.
When healthcare 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 the positioning of weight-bearing supports will determine how suitable the space is for healthcare use and equipment.
A test fit will not only determine if the space is adequate for the proposed use, but 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 considerable 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 healthcare office and local codes, is an essential part of due diligence for the office search.