Practice Management Blog

Designing a Modern Medical Office

Setting up your own private practice is one of the most important milestones for many health professionals. But it’s not without its stresses. Once you have all the legal red tape out the way and have secured a practice space, you’re now faced with the task of coordinating medical office design ideas and décor.

Research shows you have nanoseconds to create a good first impression when clients walk in the door of your practice. Then there’s the challenge of ensuring that your practice rooms reflect your brand as well as exuding professionalism and care.

Consider the findings of environmental psychologist Ann Devlin in her research that examined the responses of people to photographs of therapy offices. The study found that elements like comfortable chairs, attractive artwork and décor, and a neat environment made the respondents feel more positive towards the therapy space and the healthcare professionals who worked there. The research concluded that softness, personalisation, and orderliness were essential elements of a well-designed healthcare space.

We are sensory beings, constantly processing information through our five senses. So, if you’re creating a modern medical office, you need to take a look at your space to check that every aspect of your aesthetics is geared towards putting your clients at ease, creating trust, and communicating professionalism.

Here are some medical office design ideas that you can use to transform your practice:

1. Visual Design – What Do Your Clients See?

We’ve all been in a healthcare practice room at one time or another. Each practice has its own unique feel, and so many are out-dated, uncomfortable, or even downright ugly. Before you start redecorating your practice, think about what you want your clients to see when they walk in the door, as this is going to be an important part of their perception of your practice and your treatment.

Visual elements and ideas for your practice:

  • Be intentional in the way you position your furniture – There should be a clear flow to the receptionist, and the waiting room should look inviting. This may mean moving chairs or couches to make the initial impression more logical. Then sit down on each of the chairs in the room to get an idea of what your clients will be looking at while they are waiting to see you.
  • Display your credentials – This might make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but it can go a long way to improving your clients’ perceptions of your treatments and care.
  • Clean up regularly – Your waiting room is what clients will remember when they think about your practice, so keep the space clean, neat, and clutter-free. Do a quick scan for rubbish every hour or so, regularly straighten furniture and reading materials, and ensure that the reception desk is clear of papers.
  • Consider removing any TV screens – While television in the waiting room can alleviate boredom, it can also add to the stress. It’s difficult to find a program that appeals to everyone and, if not monitored carefully, may alienate clients who find the shows inappropriate, controversial, or even offensive. It’s an unnecessary hassle and expense, and most people will have their smartphones with them anyway.
  • Curate your lighting carefully – Natural light can brighten a room, creating a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. If your natural lighting options are limited, fluorescent lights can be used to distribute light evenly, while incandescent lights will make the space cosier and inviting. Don’t use overhead lighting exclusively; tabletop lights should also be included in the space, and buy bulbs that are labelled as “soft white” or “warm white.”
  • Choose the colours you use intentionally – For healthcare practices, colours like sage green and dusty blue are popular as they are considered calming.
  • Bring nature indoors – Pot plants and nature-focused artwork are helpful in promoting the healing quality of a space.
  • Don’t forget to look down – Medical practice décor differs from other interior design projects because you’re aiming for a sense of calm and professionalism. This means things that would ordinarily work, such as small rugs, end up cluttering the space and detracting from the overall aesthetic.

2. Auditory Aspects – What Will Your Clients Hear?

You might not have thought about it, but an important part of your interior design is sound – either blocking it or creating it. While there are the essential considerations of client confidentiality and privacy, there’s also the use of sound and music to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Sound-focused ideas for your practice:

  • Choose décor items that absorb sound – Curtains and blinds will prevent an echoey, empty-feeling space.
  • Use white noise – This will ensure that any private conversations won’t be overheard.
  • Select your music carefully – If you want to have music playing in the waiting room, make sure it’s neutral and not too loud, your clients are in a healthcare waiting room after all.

3. Touch and Feel – How Does it Make Your Clients Feel?

We’ve all spent what seems like hours in a waiting room before, and it’s a lot more manageable if you have somewhere comfortable to sit and if the space is cohesive.

Medical office design ideas for touch-appeal:

  • Go for chairs rather than couches – Many people don’t feel comfortable sharing small spaces with strangers and forcing clients to share a couch may be uncomfortable for some. Chairs are more personal, and take up less space.
  • Include a mix of seating options – Depending on how much space you have available, you could set up your seating with a cluster of chairs around a coffee table, quieter space for professionals, and a child-friendly corner if you have children that come into your practice.
  • Communicate your healthcare practice brand – The furniture you use should fit your brand in terms of style, fabric, and colour.
  • Check your furniture for comfort – Note how your chairs feel when you sit on them, are they comfortable? Is the fabric soft?
  • Get the room’s temperature right – You want your clients to feel comfortable when they walk in, but if the heating is turned up (or not turned on at all), your clients will find it difficult to relax.
  • Consider offering free wifi – A study by Software Advice showed that free internet would minimise their frustration at having to wait for their appointment.

4. Take a Sniff – How Does Your Practice Smell to Clients?

Any strange smells or strong odours are not going to create a welcoming environment. Scents are known to trigger certain moods (because of associative learning) and are even stronger than words in triggering memories. It’s also common for people to have a strong aversion to certain smells, so incense or scented candles may be relaxing to some, but off-putting for others.

Scent-inspired medical office design ideas:

  • Be sensitive about food smells – If you’re eating or microwaving food in the office, consider the type of food that you’re eating, and open a window.
  • Check-in with colleagues – You might love the smell of incense, but for others, it produces a strong negative reaction. Asking someone else for their perspective will help you identify and remove smells that may be having an impact on the client’s experience.
  • Purchase a diffuser – An essential oil diffuser is often a good middle ground, creating a pleasant smelling environment without being overwhelming.

5. Taste – What Refreshments Can You Offer Your Clients?

This will depend on the type of services and treatments you offer, your client base, and your budget. Consider this dentist’s waiting room that offered a stocked minibar (as well as a massage chair) – wouldn’t you want to go there?

Practical taste-centred medical office design ideas:

  • Offer tea and coffee – If it’s feasible for your practice (especially if your clients may be waiting a while), a cup of tea or coffee can help them to feel comfortable and relaxed.
  • Set up a water cooler – This is great for the warmer months where clients may be rushing between appointments, and a refreshing drink can make a big difference.

Are you inspired to get going? There’s no better time than now to get started with implementing these medical office design ideas, whether you’re decorating a new practice or needed to inject some life into your existing practice. Remember, you don’t have to go all in. If you’ve decided on a colour scheme and design aesthetic, you can make small incremental changes that will quickly add up. If you’re committed to making consistent improvements, after a few short months your practice will be unrecognisable (Check our blog post “7 Free Ways to Increase Perceived Value at Your Clinic” for additional ideas).

These décor ideas don’t have to break the budget either, so if you’ve been postponing a practice facelift, there’s just no excuse. By focusing on elements that will contribute to the softness, personalization, and orderliness of your practice, you’re setting yourself up for success in the long-term.

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