Tips for handling an office move and designing an ideal space
The following article by Thomas Nater, ARIDO, IDC, Designer/Project Manager, Quartek Group Inc., was recently published in the September 2012 issue of Ontario Medical Review as a guide for physicians.
There are many reasons why you may choose to relocate your medical practice, but regardless of your motives, it can be an overwhelming challenge. The following article provides an overview of the many tasks and decisions that should be taken into consideration when planning a move.
When asked about the best way to “handle” an office move, typical physician responses include:
• “I can do this. I moved into my first office without any help.”
• “It’s easy. Find a space with a particular square footage in mind and call the realtor.”
• “Speak to the building owner regarding available empty space, or call a contractor — the building owner may even recommend their usual contractor. You tell him what you need, and voila, you have a new space!”
When asked about the need for “planning” their office space, common physician refrains include:
• “What do you mean — I need to hire someone to design the space for me?”
• “What about the cost of hiring an interior designer or architect? They are too expensive and not necessary.”The planning and design of your new office or clinic should be approached like a new business plan. You
have the perfect opportunity to review all aspects of your practice by asking yourself the following questions:
• Do I like the way the office works now?
• How do I work now compared to past years?
• Would I like to work differently?
• Do I like the look of my existing space (e.g., layout, colours, materials, general appearance, etc.)?
• Is my existing space creating efficiency problems and preventing staff from doing their job properly?
• Can the office impact staff productivity, satisfaction, and retention?
• Should I review staff job descriptions before we move?
• Could we as a team — physician(s) and staff — improve overall office efficiency?
• Is it time to change to an electronic medical record (EMR) file management system?
• Should I join a primary care model group practice (e.g., Family Health Group, Family Health Network, Family Health Organization)?
• Do I have options for improving my profitability?
• Do my patients care about how the office looks?
• Can the office be designed to provide better service and comfort for patients?
• Am I close to the hospital? Lab? How about parking for myself and staff?
• Is there appropriate public transportation that my patients can use?
• Is the office wheelchair accessible?
• Is there room for future growth?
These are just a few of the many questions that should be asked when considering a move.
Each of these questions will form the basis of criteria for establishing an “office management plan.” A good plan will tell you how you like to work, and will help you identify financial considerations and questions pertaining to renovation costs for a new office, including hard and soft costs, staff support, etc.
The next question to ask yourself is: “How do I go about designing my new space so that it works for ME?” Multiple professional disciplines representative of your office’s many functional needs come into play when creating a new, successful office. These should include, but are not limited to:
• Physician team – 1 or 2 members
• Clinic administration manager
• Medical clinic manager
• Nursing representative
• Clinic aid representative
• EMR representative
• IT representative
(Understanding that with smaller office projects the management team would be smaller.)
Other professional advisors
• Practice management consultant
• Financial planner/investment advisor
• Insurance specialist
• Legal consultant
• Real estate consultant/developer
• Medical facility planning consultants (e.g., architectural/engineering consultants)
Each of these professional advisors can provide valuable insight from the perspective of their individual disciplines to help you achieve your desired outcome. Medical office and clinic projects that have made use of experienced consultants have realized overwhelming benefits.
Good advice from an experienced individual or group should be regarded as a good investment, rather than a cost — an investment that will yield dividends for the end user for years to come. Do it right the first time. Plan ahead.
It has been said: A smart person learns from his or her past. A wise person learns from others.
OMA Practice Management and Advisory Services has created valuable online guides to assist you in designing your ideal office space. “First Impressions I & II: Medical Facility Planning Guide and The Patient Experience” can be viewed at: www.oma.org/pmresources.