Optimize space to improve workflow and patient experience

July 1, 2017

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.