Episode 21: How much space do I need?
Let’s talk about how much space you need and some of your layout considerations. for your new practice.
One of your first considerations is size. How large does your office need to be? The general rule of thumb is 1200 to 1500 square feet for the first physician and 1000 to 1200 square feet for each additional provider. In order to drill down to your specific needs, you'll need to understand your clinic's flow.
First impression–your waiting room
First impressions count. Your waiting room is where your patients get their first impression, so you are going to want it to be inviting. How big does your waiting room need to be? The optimal size depends on a few factors, including the number of providers in the practice, your visit volume and the overall efficiency of the practice. This is where knowing how many patients you are going to see per hour is important.
Next—Think through your operational needs
Long before you ever go to look for space, sit down and write out every step of your clinic flow. How do patients move from one part of your space to another? How much staff will you have? What are their roles? How many patients will you see in an hour? What equipment will you have? How much space does it take up?
Traffic flow & accessibility in the clinic
Productivity is enhanced with every step you save. Having a circular traffic flow that leads from the waiting room, through reception to exam rooms, and back out the reception is a particularly effective layout.
How many exam rooms do I need?
As a general rule, the optimal number of exam rooms to start with is 3. One room for the patient who being teed up for you to see, one for you to be in and one for the patient you just saw and who needs to be checked out. Now obviously that does not take into account any other factors like having a room for procedures, x-rays or non-invasive testing. You will need to take those additional services into consideration when deciding on the number of rooms.
An exam room should be at least 10 feet by 10 feet. You’ll want each room should have enough space to comfortably accommodate you, an assistant, your patient and at least one family member. You will also need to think about wheelchair accessibility.
This is where thinking through your work flow is so absolutely important. I’m sure that you have been to medical offices where all of the office equipment is grouped together in the receptionist area, there’s one space as the nurses’ station and another for the doctors’ work area. If you critically evaluate this set-up you’ll see that this is probably not the most efficient use of their space.
When you or your staff need to go to a central hub, bottlenecks form. Instead of keeping all of your fax machines, printers, files, and office supplies and computers in the front office, think about moving some of those resources back to the work area. And, everything patient-related needs to happen in private. Keep the workstation area clear of any sensitive information. Store all private patient information, diagnoses, billing, treatments or medications in locked cabinets.
The key: efficiency and productivity is all about the flow.
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