Medical Centre Planning Considerations – Perfect Practice Medical Fitouts

Space planning for your new surgery can be far more complex than deciding where to put the stereo. Andrew Campion counters your perplexity with some guidelines for successful design.

After you’ve made the decision to refurbish or relocate your practice, and ideally prepared a brief, space planning can begin. Planning the layout as part of a medical practice setup or refurbish can be a complicated procedure, although it will be much easier if you’ve already prepared a brief for your designer or for yourself. You will need to address your spatial priorities, possible traffic and spatial balance in your practice.

If you’re moving to a new location, you will have already had to list your priorities to find enough space for your needs, an ideal geographic location with proximity to public transport and parking, great visibility, and of course a reasonable price. You will have to look more closely at your priorities during the space planning stage of the project to specify exactly the essential and optional areas in your brief.

The size of your premises and your budget are the two main determining factors in the design of your dental surgeries. The brief you’ve previously developed should be seen as a wish list; an ideal that may have to be changed or compromised to fit your available floor space and your financial constraints. Other constraints on your floor space and layout may be fixed structures such as columns and walls, existing windows and established entrances to the space. In some cases, commercial leases are taken in buildings where there is unlimited space available for the planned surgeries. However, every square metre used costs money, and therefore an efficient use of space is always cheaper.

Another issue is the importance of visibility versus issues of privacy. Surgeries prioritising visibility through ground floor tenancies, windows and glass, have the advantage of attracting new customers and exhibiting an open and honest practice. However, privacy is often a concern for patients while being treated and for staff on a break. Many healthcare practices are now being fitted out in street-front retail space, where these privacy issues are inevitably raised.

An excellent way to save space and money if both are limited is to design rooms that are multifunctional (e.g. office / conference / consultation / staff meeting room). In offices, part-time staff may share desks to save space. These multifunctional rooms are a great idea for the administrative zones of your practice, but clinical zones cannot overlap in the same way, for the obvious reason of hygiene.

It is preferable for patients to progress through the practice from one zone to the next, to maintain an efficient major traffic path in the surgery. As much as possible, separate public zones (areas accessible to patients) from private zones (areas accessible to staff) to maintain security and privacy. Keeping all clinical areas close together, and administrative areas together, ensures movement around the practice is easier and safer for staff and patients.

Placement of some particular areas is critical, such as the centrality of the sterilising area to the surgeries, and the placement of the patient WC before the clinical area for security and safety reasons. The utilities (e.g. photocopier, printer) must be central to the administrative areas and staff amenities should also be close to the staff room.

The end point of a patient’s vision – what they see when moving throughout the practice – should be considered in space planning. Make certain that they will not be looking into private areas, at the back of equipment, or into other tenancies. Creating spatial balance is about maintaining consistency in the scale of different spaces in the practice. Avoid the contrast of grand waiting areas with poky surgeries, for example, and keep all areas in the practice in proportion to each other.

Space planning often requires sacrifice from you and creativity on the part of the designer, but if you can determine your surgery’s priorities, the process can be simplified, and the best design outcome achieved.

Perfect Practice is a multi-disciplinary healthcare design and construction specialist. Established for over 30 years and credited with designing some of Australia’s most successful practices, Perfect Practice combines both the art and science of healthcare practice design.

Written by Andrew Campion
Senior Project Consultant – Perfect Practice
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