Don’t Let Your Medical Practice Design Damage Your Reputation

June 27, 2014

Online rating sites not only review physicians, but your entire practice, including the aesthetics. Here are five tips to improve positive patient feedback.

Take a quick tour of your medical practice space. Is the carpet worn? The furniture mismatched? The walls taped with flyers? The check-in counter HIPAA and ADA non-compliant?

Design and maintenance may not always be top of mind but they matter more than you may realize. They can damage your reputation - particularly as online physician rating sites grow in popularity.

Consider the following excerpts from actual postings on Yelp, the popular business review site.

"[T]he office is a little old and does need some revamping … If you can get past that and trust in his care you will not be sorry."

"I might give him another try again but I would not want to recommend anyone until I get to know him better and until they do something about their facilities."

"Also, the office is dingy and looks like the inside of someone's apartment. No joke, the '"medical lamp'" was a fricken clamp-on $12 dollar office lamp from Staples."

Many factors drive patient satisfaction – from convenience and accessibility to staff demeanor, billing practices, and successful outcomes -.and not all Yelp reviews are fair and accurate.

But design and maintenance help drive patient perception of your practice. So why let the look and feel of your office undermine the hard work you put into running your practice?

Good Design Is Good Business

Many patients can’t immediately evaluate the quality of your care. They rely on other clues to assure themselves that they are in good hands. Good design contributes to a welcoming environment, instills confidence, and minimizes stress.

It means positive first impressions and higher patient satisfaction, which in turn increases referrals and return visits. Simply put, good design is good business.

And as Yelp indicates, patients are not afraid to share their experiences online with others.

The number of patients who post is actually small, but a growing number of patients are aware of physician rating sites and are selecting a physician based on the sites’ reviews.

That’s according to a recent study  by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their findings reveal that 35 percent of those who utilized online ratings in the past year had chosen a doctor due to good ratings and 37 percent had avoided a doctor because of bad ratings.

And TheWall Street Journal("Doctors Check Online Ratings From Patients and Make Change" from May 19, 2014) recently reported that Healthgrades, RateMDs.com, and Vitals - the biggest of the online physician rating sites - all have seen a significant uptick in the number of reviews and unique visitors.

Increasing Patient Satisfaction through Good Design

So when it comes to the design and maintenance of your office space, we offer these steps that your practice can take to help safeguard against negative reviews and improve positive feedback.

1. First and foremost, assume your patients pay attention to the design and maintenance of your office space. And remember that the environment where care is provided impacts the perceptions of care that is delivered.

2. Include questions about the office space in your patient satisfaction surveys and monitor rating sites. Patient feedback can be invaluable in determining if there is a problem with your office space. As noted in  the Physicians Practice article "How Physicians Should Deal With Online Rating Websites" "[I] ignorance is not bliss. The more aware you are of what patients are writing about you, the more able you will be to improve your online reputation."

3. When building a new office or refreshing or renovating an existing one, base your design on your service offerings, your business strategy, and your patient mix - not just price or aesthetics. Luxury finishes may look great, but they make some patients feel uncomfortable or out of place. Bariatric and elderly patients for example require furniture specifically designed to meet their needs.

4. When making furniture and finishes selections, use the following as your guide for a successful design:

• Patient and staff safety and health

• Comfort

• Durability

• Ease of repair and maintenance

5. Hire a designer with actual medical interior design experience who understands clinical processes and code compliance.

Remember not all reviews are negative. If you need validation that design matters, consider these positive reviews on Yelp.

"They recently underwent a huge renovation and online makeover. Their new facilities are very nice."

"I love this practice. I am extremely pleased with the quality of care here. The location is great, the office is clean and inviting, and the practitioners really take their time with you. I would definitely recommend it."

You will be rewarded for paying attention to the impact of design on your practice.

Patricia Fortenberry, IIDA, andDan Greenfieldare co-founders of Health Space Design, a design firm specializing in medical interiors. Fortenberry’s experience includes16 years at Seton Family of Hospitals where she served as their subject matter expert for finishes and furniture. Greenfield has extensive experience as a PR and social media consultant and conference organizer. E-mail them here.