The physical design of your practice can influence your relationships with patients and the efficiency of your practice. That, in turn, can make practicing medicine a more enjoyable experience. But changing your practice layout doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Here are some things to consider as you think about improving your existing space or look for a new practice location.
1. Create team work stations to encourage collaboration.
- Facilitate communication among all members of a care team (allergist, nurse and medical assistant (MA) by creating a team work space. This improves efficiency and strengthens your team.
- Locate team work spaces near exam rooms to maximize efficiency (and minimize the steps required between exam room and work space). One example: an allergist/MA combined work station that is just outside the allergist’s three exam rooms, enabling frequent communication and easy access to all rooms.
2. Design patient-centered exam rooms.
- Include space both for physical exams and where allergists and patients/family members can sit down together and discuss care plans.
- Find a way to connect with patients while using your electronic health records. Large wall-mounted screens that connect to laptops allow allergists to share information to patients. A less expensive option: shift your position so you can share your laptop with patients.
- Review the lighting. Is it too bright or too dark? Proper lighting can make a big difference and make a room more comfortable.
- Consider painting the room a calming, warm color to help relax patients. Artwork, particularly landscapes or nature pictures, have a soothing effect.
3. Put allergy shot room up front.
- A standalone shot room, located near the front of the clinic, provides easy access to patients and reduces clinic traffic. Consider using a portable screen to give patients privacy, and have epinephrine and a crash cart nearby for safety.
- Kevin McGrath, MD, FACAAI, vice-chair of the ACAAI Practice Management Committee, explained, “Our shot room is near the waiting room, and my office is diagonally across from it. It’s a short distance for staff to come to me for problems, shot dose adjustments, etc. I like to be involved, aware, and visible, which gives patients confidence that I'm overseeing their care.”
4. Standardize exam rooms.
- Create a clinical team (allergist, nurse, MA) to recommend “standard” supplies that should be part of each exam room. Some ideas: gowns, otoscope tips, hand sanitizer and markers for skin testing.
- Standardize all cabinets and drawers in each exam room so they’re identical. When an allergist or nurse is looking for a tool or supply item, they will know exactly where to find it, regardless of the exam room. That saves time for everyone.
- Create a restocking system to ensure every exam room is fully stocked at the beginning of each day – eliminating the need to stop in the middle of an exam or test to search for a missing item.
Give some thought to the layout of your clinic and exam rooms. Simple changes can result in improved efficiency for you and your staff, plus a better patient experience.