Smart Layout Improvements for Medical Practices

April 7, 2015

From small changes to big fixes, here's how to adjust your medical design to boost patient satisfaction and staff efficiency.

An important aspect of design is integrating technology into the workspace in a way that is both useful and complementary to its surroundings, experts say.

"Now that we have introduced electronic [health] records into the visit, many physicians and nurses struggle with how to integrate them," says Rosalyn Cama, president of New Haven, Conn.-based design firm CAMA. "They often end up feeling tethered to a piece of equipment or turning their backs on patients while they do data entry. It's awkward all the way around and can make the patient feel like the clinician isn't really listening to them."

Smart design choices can help eliminate some of that awkwardness, she says. For example, work counters should be ergonomically designed for data entry so that computers are below eye level. In addition, the computer workstation should be positioned between doctor and patient and close enough to the patient to be conducive to private conversation.

Technology also affects the design of workstations shared by multiple members of the care team, says Elizabeth Woodcock, an Atlanta-based medical practice consultant. Shared spaces need to have sufficient work area for physicians and nurses to drop by in between patient visits and take care of routine tasks, such as making a phone call or updating a patient file.

"We're seeing fewer physician offices and more shared workstations that integrate physicians with support staff," says Woodcock. "The collaborative workstation is where the team gathers in between patient visits."