5 Biggest Mistakes in Medical Office Building Design

Med­ical office build­ings have more com­plex func­tion­al require­ments than tra­di­tion­al offices. The many and var­i­ous needs of build­ing occu­pants, doc­tors and patients often mean any design flaw only becomes more evi­dent once the build­ing is com­plet­ed and occu­pied.

Medical Office Building Design Mistakes

There are a few com­mon mis­takes when it comes to the design of med­ical office build­ings, but these can be avoid­ed when plan­ning with the right resources and strate­gies in mind.

Mistake 1: Using an Inexperienced Design Team

It is impor­tant to first assem­ble a knowl­edge­able and pro­fes­sion­al team of con­trac­tors, archi­tects, and design­ers. Pro­gram­ming of these spe­cial use spaces requires a keen under­stand­ing of how med­ical ser­vices are pro­vid­ed and what makes a med­ical facil­i­ty oper­ate in an effi­cient and pre­dictable man­ner.

There are a num­ber of med­ical ser­vice provider mod­els being used today, and the build­ings each busi­ness requires can be quite spe­cif­ic.

Hir­ing a spe­cial­ty con­sul­tant who under­stands the ins and outs of med­ical build­ing design may prove vital. This may increase costs for your firm, but the longer-term pay­off of con­tin­ued busi­ness from your client’s ini­tial suc­cess­ful project will make it worth it.

Mistake 2: Focusing Completely on Initial Costs

Med­ical offices are all about flex­i­bil­i­ty and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. If your design and con­struc­tion team only con­sid­ers up-front costs and ignores long-term month-to-month costs, the client may become sad­dled with a build­ing that no longer fits their busi­ness needs and oper­at­ing bud­get after a few years.

Build­ing own­ers and man­agers may be tempt­ed to cut the ini­tial build­ing con­struc­tion cost and ignore the facility’s long-term objec­tives. It’s impor­tant to sit down with the team to find the bal­ance between stay­ing with­in the desired bud­get, and a bud­get that real­is­ti­cal­ly accounts for the future needs of the build­ing.

Using low­er qual­i­ty mate­ri­als and fin­ish­es may save mon­ey ini­tial­ly, but this guar­an­tees increased life-cycle costs. Sim­i­lar to com­mer­cial build­ings, med­ical offices can be high-traf­fic areas that need to accom­mo­date large vol­umes of peo­ple. The fin­ish­es and mate­ri­als need to be long last­ing, high­ly durable and resis­tant to clean­ing agents. By using high-qual­i­ty mate­ri­als and fin­ish­es, future main­te­nance costs can be low­ered con­sid­er­ably.

Mistake 3: Ignoring the Flow of Circulation

The flow of cir­cu­la­tion is one of the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions when design­ing a med­ical office. A chaot­ic wait­ing area with no clear one-way flow or line to the check-in desk is a prime exam­ple of this mis­take.

A med­ical office should be viewed as a series of inter­link­ing sys­tems, with each one hav­ing a dif­fer­ent func­tion and direc­tion. A loop or a cen­tral core works very well, as none of the ser­vices need to back­track on each oth­er. This also saves time and increas­es the staff and med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers’ pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

The flow of an office is also deter­mined by the kind of med­ical prac­tice that is in the space. A den­tal office will have a dif­fer­ent flow than a facil­i­ty for cos­met­ic surgery. Archi­tects will need to con­sid­er the size of wait­ing rooms, the num­ber of patient rooms and sub-wait­ing rooms.

The cir­cu­la­tion of a space has to be clear and straight­for­ward for the peo­ple inside. A maze of con­fus­ing walk­ways and inter­sec­tions can inhib­it pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and cause patients to get lost.

Mistake 4: Lack of Flexibility

With rapid advances in tech­nol­o­gy, flex­i­bil­i­ty is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of med­ical office design. Shut­ting down seg­ments of the facil­i­ty every few years to com­plete upgrades are cost­ly and incon­ve­nient.

Luck­i­ly, this rapid rate of med­ical and tech­no­log­i­cal advances enables archi­tects and builders to design more intel­li­gent build­ings. A sim­ple wall, for exam­ple, can have an array of func­tions to ensure flex­i­bil­i­ty.

When design­ing with flex­i­bil­i­ty in mind, it is impor­tant to note the ser­vices of the facil­i­ty and gear design towards easy main­te­nance and expan­sion when need­ed. Walk­ways or cir­cu­la­tion routes are good areas for ser­vices to run. Rooms can be plugged into the cir­cu­la­tion spine with less hin­drance to the rest of the facil­i­ty.

The dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion between soft and hard spaces is also impor­tant. Soft spaces include areas like wait­ing rooms, recep­tion areas and doctor’s rooms. Hard spaces are areas that can­not be eas­i­ly moved or changed, like surgery the­aters or x‑ray facil­i­ties.

It is impor­tant to design areas to be mul­ti-func­tion­al. Pause areas can be con­vert­ed into patient rooms when the need aris­es. Flex­i­bil­i­ty that is designed into a build­ing will enhance the use­ful life of the build­ing and cre­ate a more valu­able asset for the client.

Mistake 5: Not Including Green Spaces in the Design

Green space is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the mod­ern med­ical facil­i­ty. Out­door green spaces and the use of nat­ur­al light estab­lish­es a pleas­ant envi­ron­ment for patients and staff.

Green spaces can include water foun­tains, trees, and lawns. Wait­ing rooms can often feel claus­tro­pho­bic and stuffy when expe­ri­enc­ing high vol­umes of traf­fic. By cre­at­ing visu­al links to acces­si­ble green spaces, suf­fi­cient air­flow, and nat­ur­al day­light, your med­ical build­ing will sup­port a calmer, more pleas­ant envi­ron­ment for the peo­ple inside.

Designing with Everyone’s Health in Mind

Pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble care to patients is the main objec­tive of any med­ical facil­i­ty. Avoid­ing these mis­takes will pro­vide a healthy work envi­ron­ment to staff so they are able to per­form opti­mal­ly, and a relax­ing set­ting for patients so they can rest and focus on get­ting well.