Setting up a new podiatry exam/procedure room or simply renovating what you have now comes with a long list of considerations. Here are 5 considerations to take into account as you begin to ensure that your rooms fit the needs of your caregivers and patients while lowering operating costs, increasing practice safety and improving patient outcomes.
1. What Are Your Practice Needs?
As you begin, think about what services you will be offering to your patients.
- What types of exams, procedures and possibly surgeries will you be performing? Consider that actual operations of your practice on the day-to-day. Consider the type and number of rooms you need to plan for and create to help give your patients the best care possible.
- What kind space will your caregivers need to adequately perform these procedures? For the safety of your caregivers and patients, plan to have adequate space around the exam/procedure chairs for your team to move efficiently around the patients to allow for better quality of care. Consider that your team will need room for their stools along with a mayo tray, nail debris vacuum and cabinetry.
- Are you going to have a surgery suite or work with another partnering ASC? Will you need to plan to purchase/install surgical equipment, or will your patients be in another facility or area for those procedures?
- What does your optimal patient workflow look like? Will you need multiple rooms for waiting, consultations and then exams/procedures, or will you be combining those different steps into one room to allow for smoother patient/caregiver transitions and infection prevention? Try to look for ways to optimize your space and increase the efficiency of your workflow to aid your team in helping more patients in less time. This will not only lead to lower operating costs, but happier patients.
2. What Are Your Patient Needs?
Consider the type of patients you will be seeing in your practice. Are they young, old, have weight considerations, or might you be treating patients with disabilities? You will need to be sure that your set-up and equipment can accommodate all the patients you will be seeing.
- ADA compliance: For patients with disabilities or often the elderly, it can be difficult to transfer from wheelchairs or simply get onto the surface of the exam/procedure chair. You will want to be sure that your office space accommodates for these patients’ needs. ADA standards state that your exam/procedure chair has a low transfer adjustable height of 17”-19” measured with an uncompressed seat cushion and have a weight bearing transfer rail. This allows your patients to transfer to the chair or table with little to no caregiver assistance. Not only does ADA compliant equipment ensure better practice safety but allows for a higher level of patient satisfaction.
- Adequate space around procedure table/chair: Plan for adequate space within your exam/procedure room for wheelchairs and guests who are accompanying your patients to move and situate themselves within the exam/procedure room.
- Patient Capacities: Consider if you will be treating bariatric patients that the weight ratings on your equipment should accommodate them while helping them to still feel safe and properly treated. This is especially true on exam chairs that will be used to lift the patients.
3. Exam/Procedure Room Composition
Now that you understand who you will be seeing and what types of exams and procedures you are planning to perform, it is time to actually get down to planning how you are going to setup your rooms.
- Utility setup: You will want to consider the electrical and plumbing needs for your procedures and equipment and how those should be configured to be where you need them for the most efficient workflow.
- Aesthetics: Think about the feeling you want to instill on your patients. This may seem a small thing, but your patients’ perceived outcomes can play off of how they felt just sitting in the room. Choose colors, materials, furniture, etc. that impart that feeling that you are aiming for. Are you wanting your practice to seem peaceful, energetic, cozy, clean or something else? Take that into consideration when choosing your colors, surfaces and furnishings.
- Workspace: Go back to the question on what you will be doing within that room. Does your caregiver have adequate room as well as the instruments and equipment within reach that they need to effectively treat their patient? Is there storage available for instruments and equipment? What about the ergonomics for your caregiver? Are you saving them from having to bend, reach or move in ways that may injure them with the placement of the room components and the equipment you are selecting?
4. Equipment Selection
Now that you understand the needs of your space, it’s time to choose your instruments, equipment, furniture, etc.
- Quality vs. Economy: While everyone is trying to spend their funds wisely, always consider the continued operating cost of the equipment you select. What may seem like a savings now, may mean equipment downtime, increased service costs and repairs in the future. Be sure to choose options that give you the best cost of ownership, which may not always be the best cost up front. Select equipment that will last longer and continue to give your patients the best quality of care while continuing to operate effectively for your caregivers.
- Storage and Cleaning: Any good practice will operate at the height of cleanliness and organization. Select instruments and equipment that can be cleaned easily and thoroughly. Make sure you also select the right cabinetry to store your instruments as well as the right equipment for proper decontamination to protect your team and your patients from infection.
- Caregiver Ergonomics: Carefully select equipment that will assist your caregivers in their duties and not hinder them or cause undue stress. Choose equipment that reduces the need for caregivers to lift or support patients’ weight or causes them to have to lean or endure repetitive movements when not necessary.
5. Planning & Execution
Nothing happens without planning and making it happen, so now that you’ve considered how you want to set up your exam and procedure rooms, it’s time to make a plan.
When do you plan to open? What is your target open date for these new rooms? This will be the guiding star for your project timeline.
- Select a project manager: Things will move smoother if you have one person overseeing this project. This person will be the one to coordinate scheduling, deliveries, and working with outside contractors and companies. They will be the single point of contact for everything to run through. This person should also work to make sure permits and licenses are acquired for your project.
- Do your homework on lead times: COVID has wreaked havoc on supply chains and lead times. Make sure to check into the lead times on the equipment, instruments, and furnishings you are needing for your practice and order them in advance. Don’t wait to order these things until you need them, plan ahead.
- Create the project timeline: Investigate the process of operations in what will need to be done or arrive before the next tasks can take place and set realistic timeline targets for these different things. Also plan at this time for contingencies (which always seem to arise) and how your team will maneuver around them if they happen.
Of course, there will always be things you find along the way, even when you begin practicing that may need tweaking, but these considerations should get you set on your way to setting up the ideal exam/procedure rooms for your practice and your patients. These will help your practice to reduce operating costs as you increase practice safety and improve your patient outcomes.