Putting patients at ease is one way to help them move through the office efficiently, which helps physicians make more money from their space, because they can see more patients every day.
Explore This IssueNovember 2015
“If [physicians] can design the office so that a patient spends a comfortable, but not inordinate, amount of time in the waiting room, and then goes to the exam room, and then is checked out efficiently, the patients are stacked as they go through the flow,” said Titzer. “A doctor can go through and see one patient, and then the next, and not be waiting for someone to check out or check in. It’s designed to the extent that doctors can set up their offices for the most efficiency.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever done an office where it hasn’t been the case that business has improved after a renovation,” said Bruce Puffer, president of the design firm Professional Interiors in Plymouth, Mass. His company has worked on medical office renovations since 1995. “We ask our clients, and many report a 10% [to] 20% increase in patient flow.”
Designing for Law and Order
With passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), first passed in 1996 and later fully modified to cover patient privacy in 2002, medical offices must consider legal standards before undergoing renovations. “Making things HIPAA compliant is a reason to renovate in itself,” said Puffer. “A lot of it is how people feel they are received and treated while they are at the practice.”
Maintaining patient privacy is important, and reception areas should be designed to give patients a sense of confidentiality. “With a multi-group practice, there can be maybe 100 patients an hour coming through, with multiple people standing around waiting to be checked in,” said Puffer. “You want to have more than just a check-in area to give a sense of privacy, and a place where more sensitive conversations can happen out of earshot of the waiting room, such as an area inside the reception area, called a check-out area, where you can interview somebody.”
There are HIPAA guidelines that specify how much space should separate waiting area seating from check-in areas and also address maintaining privacy in exam rooms so that conversations within them can’t be overheard elsewhere, said Greenfield.