Medical Exam Room Of The Future
When looking at how healthcare is delivered, there are multiple opportunities that both the healthcare and design industries have as we evaluate the benefits and innovations that the pandemic has pushed on patients and doctors.
• What will our doctor’s office look like in the future? • Will doctors continue embracing technology to provide Telehealth visits and consultations? • How could an individual’s experience change their in-person visit? • Can you imagine waiting in a more comfortable space that helped reduce some of the stress/anxiety many feel when visiting the doctor?
Flexible Exam Room The Medical Office of the Future starts in the first space you encounter, the waiting room. As physicians rapidly embrace technology, your check-in process becomes a breeze. Patient forms, registration info, and insurance verification are done prior to the visit, so you’re immediately acknowledged and taken to a patient room upon arrival. Once settled into your room, you can relax in lounge furniture that also serves as the consultation chair while you pull up a favorite show on the adjacent screen or select some favorite music to listen to while you wait.
If the patient consents, imagine what having this simple information, like the patient’s favorite show or music, can add to the relationship the doctor is building with their client. Next time they visit, the room can already be set with their preferences, and any marketing efforts by the doctor can be better targeted to their patients. For the doctor, this provides benefits beyond better understanding your patients outside of the reason they’re visiting the office. Less space is being utilized by traditional waiting rooms and additional patient rooms can be added for expanding the types of procedures the doctor can provide. It may also open up other patient rooms for multiple physicians to work out of the same space. A seamless transition from waiting to consultation to exam helps the patient feel more settled rather than the traditional model of being shuffled from the waiting room to a sub-waiting room, to exam room, and then yet again to a support space like a blood draw or vitals area. What does this look like in the exam room? The room may have several different subspaces. The waiting area they are using can switch seamlessly to a consultation area when the doctor comes in. The TV they were watching while waiting turns into a screen that can be utilized in a variety of ways. A patient can virtually invite a loved one to join the visit if they’d like, it can be used to review imaging or test results, to watch a quick video for information on a diagnosis, look at a visual guide for changing a dressing or to teach a child how to properly care for their teeth or any number of other individualized situations. When you’re ready to check-out, just touch the screen and complete that check-out process in your room. There’s no need to walk out into the corridor back to a registration or check-out area, minimizing contact interactions. Beyond annual health visits, this model allows care teams assigned to patients with ongoing concerns to virtually discuss treatment plans across different specialties. Not only does this provide valuable communication between specialists, but it allows the patient to fully engage with their treatment plan, ask questions, and decrease the chance of errors associated with medications/plans negatively impacting each other.
Careful planning of healthcare appropriate finishes paired with a sophisticated yet playful color palette appeal to children, caregivers, and healthcare providers.
Separate spaces for patient exams, waiting, and a multi-functional consultation area are key in configuring the room for various purposes.
Various adjustable lighting sources reduce shadows during telehealth calls, while acoustical materials are carefully placed to decrease outside noise and allow clear verbal communication.
With the careful planning of the exam room, patients feel like they are being heard and are empowered to ask questions and take charge of their treatment plan. In turn, this increases patient satisfaction and impacts healing rates across the board. Once the space plan is completed to maximize the flexible nature of the exam room, itâ€™s imperative that the other items of the space align with the new design. Lighting, acoustics, and technology will play a key role in designing a highly functional space. When designing lighting for an exam room, the ability to control lighting levels and color temperature is key. To have sufficient ambient light is as crucial to having enough light to perform an in-patient exam, virtual visit, or care coordination meeting. If another physician needs to see the patient to provide a team-centered exam the patient canâ€™t be back-lit resulting in a shadow. Diffused lighting coming from the area of the video equipment will be necessary. Lighting with a color rendering as close as possible to natural daylight should be used together with overhead and wall surface lighting. Acoustics will be an important consideration beyond the function of privacy. If a virtual meeting is being held, the correct acoustical design solution will be one that dampens outside noises, reduces echoing of hard surfaces within the space, and allows for clear verbal communication between patient and the healthcare provider. Many of us are already comfortable using video conferencing solutions to hold meetings as a result of the pandemic, however, there are definitely some things to keep in mind to move the video capabilities from amateur to professional. A screen that is too large or a physician sitting too close to the screen could seem overwhelming to the patient. The monitor and video camera being used should be at eye level to mimic more closely an in-person discussion. Having this on height adjustable equipment is an easy solution. Though inadvertently, it will be important for the doctor to have the right video background. While a pediatric therapist may have a fun, interactive background to engage youth, a doctor that sees adults may have an office or clinic background. This attention to the background will have a big impression in how the patient perceives the experience with the doctor so time should be spent evaluating what is best for the type of practice where itâ€™s being implemented. In a multi-functional space, this could be as simple as placing the video/telehealth station where the correct background is already being incorporated in the space, minimizing or eliminating the need to create a staged background.
2020 has proven that Telehealth is not only possible but a benefit to both doctors and patients. As the design community helps the healthcare industry navigate the post-pandemic world, there is a unique opportunity to change the way people receive treatment.
Adjusable light sources
Screens utilized for entertainment and patient education
Adjustable patient exam seating
Physician charting/patient consultaion area
Acoustical durable flooring
Flexible Floorplan Configurations
Diffused lighting optimized for patient exams and telehealth
Acoustical wall panels
Screens for telehealth visits, care team consultation, virtual inclusion of patient caregiver
Seating for caregivers
Flexible workspace for virtual visits
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