Six things to think about before fitting out your practice
December 3, 2019
As a medical professional, you’re likely to be spending a lot of time with patients in your practice. Whether your practice has a retail front or is on a top floor in a building, a medical suite fitout is significantly different to retail or commercial fitouts. We spoke with Rael Shakenovsky, Director of Jensen Projects, a specialist in commercial fitouts, about the key considerations, differences and trends that doctors need to factor in when fitting out their rooms.
(Photo Credit: Jensen Projects)
Where do you start?
We encourage practices to think broadly about their patients: what type of image they want to portray, what they want people to feel when they walk through the door. However, they also need to think about their own comfort and team. For example, are pharmaceutical reps invited into the kitchen for lunchtime presentations? How do you make that a good experience? The answers to these questions will help determine the most appropriate materials, spaces and colours for your practice.
Tenant vs owner fit-out
Once you’ve had a chance to arrive at the experience you’re after, there are practical considerations that depend on whether you own or lease your space. Fitting out your space requires critical approvals such as signage, plumbing penetrations and air-conditioning services that will all need to be permitted by Council, Body corporate and (if you lease) the landlord. This preliminary phase is called Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) phase and this is where Jensen recommends spending a bit of time with your consultants.
The length of tenure and permanence for your practice will have a major impact on the level of investment to put into your space. In the case of a short lease, major modifications that last a long period of time may be hard to justify as they will become property of the landlord or they will need to be removed at the end of the lease (at an additional cost) to revert the space to its original condition. Creating and communicating a clear upfront plan will show a potential landlord that you’re a serious well-presented practitioner that is there to stay and may lead them to be more accommodating of your plans. If you own the space, you may have a much longer time horizon in mind and spend more on your fitout to use for the longer term.
Medical vs standard office fit-out
Unlike conventional offices, medical fit-outs may require medical-grade facilities, such as water tempering devices and specialist drainage for a dentist or a medical-grade electrical set up for a treatment room in a GP practice.
Regardless of whether you are a multidisciplinary suburban medical practice, a dental practice or vet surgery, the first consideration for a medical fit-out is infection control. A close second is uncompromising privacy and sound control. You don’t want a fearful child in the dentist’s waiting area to hear the sound of the drill or, worse, another child crying. Of course, GPs and psychologists must be able to speak to their patients without being overheard in the next office.
Trends for space and design
The move is towards warm inclusive spaces that comply with medical requirements. Medical practices are moving away from rigid reception area / waiting rooms towards a waiting lounge/café style setup. Another concept is reception pods that are separated from the waiting area to improve receptionist efficiency and to allow for private conversations with patients, for example, about payment arrangements. Practices are starting to borrow ideas from contemporary office design and may set up several intimate lounge zones to create a greater sense of warmth and privacy. Increasingly, the mix between clinical and friendly is being embraced in procedure and treatment rooms as well.
Shifting technology inclusions
With the constant and increasing changes in technology, medical practices are incorporating a higher degree of technological engagement. This includes touch-screen sign-in, digital form-filling and the downloading of apps to encourage and retain patient engagement and to speed up processes. Patients expect Wi-Fi and USB charging ports as well. Something for practices to consider is the need for medical-grade network security and temporary backup power in case of a power failure.
How different does it need to be?
The aim is to create a medically appropriate set up in a comfortable, functional and aesthetically pleasing environment – that suits the doctor, dentist or vet’s image. This is often achieved by taking the best bits from different sectors, which is a point of difference for Jensen Projects. We have specialist teams working in hospitality, office and residential construction, as well as medical fitouts – and we regularly share ideas across the business.
So, whether you’re opening a new practice or refurbishing your existing medical clinic, it pays to get your practice designed and fit-out right with someone who understands the complexities of medical practice design and construction compliance. Jensen Projects believe that the best way to have a successful outcome is in the planning, and are happy to assist clients in the planning phase to organise their project, arming them with a brief that they can put out to tender if preferred.