Just as office environments are going through a transformative time to accommodate the return of hybrid workers, medical office design is also experiencing a period of extraordinary change. Some of these changes have been brought about by the pandemic and the lasting impact it’s had on the way that patients view and use healthcare and some changes have been happening gradually as the needs and wants of younger generations dictate the future of medical services.
What’s Informing Modern Medical Office Design?
Telemedicine is rapidly becoming an integral part of the Canadian healthcare system. Services are stretched to the limit and unattached patients unable to source a dedicated family doctor have been able to access OHIP-covered medical help for some time now virtually. Virtual healthcare became a necessity during the pandemic for obvious reasons and we can safely predict that these services are here to stay for those that enjoyed the convenience. According to BetaKit, virtual health visits in Canada have grown by 5,600 percent.
More than ever, people value their time, there just isn’t enough disposable time in the day. As we all return to in-person working, getting a doctor’s appointment at lunchtime in a private area in the workplace is an appealing alternative to booking time off work and wasting vacation hours.
The upshot of this is that medical facilities need to consider virtual care as part of their offering and that means having dedicated space for virtual consultations - high quality audio visual systems, sound-proofing and confidentiality will be key considerations for medical offices implementing their own virtual care services.
Flexible, Multi-use Spaces
Medical offices are being pushed to provide a wider range of services than before, including minor procedures that may once have prompted a hospital visit. Furthermore, not every visit requires a room with a bed. In light of this, spaces are becoming more flexible but tailored at the same time, offering multiple purposes during the day, with some fully-featured examination rooms and some smaller, quick consultation rooms.
As people get used to the idea of group visits for more chronic, longer-term conditions, the medical office will need to contemplate an interactive area that accommodates group sessions offering inclusive support to in-person and virtual patients.
Medical offices may follow the lead of hybrid offices in this respect, incorporating media studios into their space which make the teleconference experience accessible and comfortable for all. When not in use for group support or therapy, these areas may be opened up as staff breakout areas or lounges.
Whether patient or staff member, prevention of infection and transmission is at the top of everyones’ mind post-pandemic. When selecting interior finishes, materials and furniture, more thought will be needed to their antimicrobial properties and how they might stand up against the repeated sterilization protocols that have to be followed. Having said that, patients are more mindful now of the chemicals and colorless gasses they’re inhaling through harsh chemicals and VOCs found in fabrics and furniture everywhere indoors and there’s a lot to be said for modern medical offices embracing an all-natural approach to indoor air quality and cleanliness.
Waiting Room Makeover
Gone are the times of a long reception desk with a group of receptionists all working in the same space or a packed waiting room with patients sitting shoulder-to-shoulder waiting on delayed appointments. With the technology available today, this experience can be much improved; patients should be able to check in themselves via an app or self-sanitizing screens, check real-time waiting times and wait in a comfortable and spacious area separated by screens or more innovative features as necessary.
Mental Health Over Practicalities
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 25% upturn in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression in the first year of the pandemic. We’re really only in the early stages of understanding the long-term impact of COVID-19 on mental health, however, a medical office like any other public service, should be designed on the presumption that likely everyone that comes through the doors will be experiencing some level of anxiety as they resume ‘normal’ activities.
Most of the elements we’ve touched on surround the functionalities of the building; aesthetics will be equally important to someone suffering a mental health issue and mustn't be overlooked for functionality. From the employees’ persona, to the ambience, sound and light, medical facilities need to provide a space that makes patients feel welcomed and safe. Ultimately you also want the patient to return and this means fostering a culture of approachability within your business.
No ‘One-size-fits-all’ in Medical Office Design
The above five trends serve as a good starting point in achieving something that is practical, clean and flexible, but each design will have its own guiding principles and be ingeniously designed to meet the needs of their market. There are many examples of outstanding medical office design throughout the world including medical, dental and alternative healthcare, each exemplifying what may be achieved when you focus on the experience.
This doctor’s clinic in New York was designed around the principle that humans inherently want to feel close to nature and brought in greenery and natural elements along with the use of lots of natural light to make visitors feel at home. This design approach works well for their holistic clinic which is focused on nutritional health and the space even includes a kitchen where patients may take cookery classes.
Another thing to bear in mind for a new medical office is the trend towards ‘medical on the go’. A patient utopia would be keeping a relationship with their doctors’ or dentist clinic whilst being able to get care wherever they might be. What this looks like could be a mixture of things dependent on the business but potentially having an office base and then smaller satellite locations within other settings (airports, workplaces, malls, grocery stores and so on). In this way perhaps patients can see a number of doctors, dentists or other medical professionals at their ‘home’ clinic but if they need a simple hygienist appointment for example, they can do this at a smaller more scaled-down location in their lunch hour or while out doing weekly groceries. This is particularly appealing to young, busy professionals and medical building owners should have a strategic plan which embraces the future of health services in Canada; a fast-paced, access anywhere scenario which fits with patients’ lifestyles whoever they might be.
For more insight into medical office buildings, investment and ownership, feel free to reach out to our experienced commercial realtors.