Considering office relocation? April 18, 2013

Tips for handling an office move and designing an ideal space
The following article by Thomas Nater, ARIDO, IDC, Designer/Project Manager, Quartek Group Inc., was recently published in the September 2012 issue of Ontario Medical Review as a guide for physicians.



There are many reasons why you may choose to relocate your medical practice, but regardless of your motives, it can be an overwhelming challenge. The follow­ing article provides an overview of the many tasks and decisions that should be taken into consideration when planning a move.

 

When asked about the best way to “handle” an office move, typical physi­cian responses include:
• “I can do this. I moved into my first office without any help.”
• “It’s easy. Find a space with a par­ticular square footage in mind and call the realtor.”
• “Speak to the building owner regard­ing available empty space, or call a contractor — the building owner may even recommend their usual con­tractor. You tell him what you need, and voila, you have a new space!”
When asked about the need for “planning” their office space, common physician refrains include:
• “What do you mean — I need to hire someone to design the space for me?”
• “What about the cost of hiring an interior designer or architect? They are too expensive and not neces­sary.”The planning and design of your new office or clinic should be approached like a new business plan. You
have the perfect opportunity to review all aspects of your practice by asking yourself the following questions:

• Do I like the way the office works now?
• How do I work now compared to past years?
• Would I like to work differently?
• Do I like the look of my existing space (e.g., layout, colours, materials, gen­eral appearance, etc.)?
• Is my existing space creating effi­ciency problems and preventing staff from doing their job properly?
• Can the office impact staff produc­tivity, satisfaction, and retention?
• Should I review staff job descriptions before we move?
• Could we as a team — physician(s) and staff — improve overall office efficiency?
• Is it time to change to an electronic medical record (EMR) file manage­ment system?
• Should I join a primary care model group practice (e.g., Family Health Group, Family Health Network, Family Health Organization)?
• Do I have options for improving my profitability?
• Do my patients care about how the office looks?
• Can the office be designed to pro­vide better service and comfort for patients?
• Am I close to the hospital? Lab? How about parking for myself and staff?
• Is there appropriate public transpor­tation that my patients can use?
• Is the office wheelchair accessible?
• Is there room for future growth?
These are just a few of the many questions that should be asked when considering a move.
Each of these questions will form the basis of criteria for establishing an “office management plan.” A good plan will tell you how you like to work, and will help you identify financial con­siderations and questions pertaining to renovation costs for a new office, including hard and soft costs, staff support, etc.
The next question to ask your­self is: “How do I go about design­ing my new space so that it works for ME?” Multiple professional disci­plines representative of your office’s many functional needs come into play when creating a new, successful office. These should include, but are not limited to:

Management team
• Physician team – 1 or 2 members
• Clinic administration manager
• Medical clinic manager
• Nursing representative
• Clinic aid representative
• EMR representative
• IT representative
(Understanding that with smaller office projects the management team would be smaller.)
Other professional advisors
• Practice management consultant
• Financial planner/investment advisor
• Accountant
• Insurance specialist
• Legal consultant
• Real estate consultant/developer
• Medical facility planning consultants (e.g., architectural/engineering con­sultants)
Each of these professional advisors can provide valuable insight from the perspective of their individual disci­plines to help you achieve your desired outcome. Medical office and clinic projects that have made use of expe­rienced consultants have realized over­whelming benefits.
Good advice from an experienced individual or group should be regarded as a good investment, rather than a cost — an investment that will yield dividends for the end user for years to come. Do it right the first time. Plan ahead.
It has been said: A smart person learns from his or her past. A wise per­son learns from others.
OMA Practice Management and Advisory Services has created valu­able online guides to assist you in designing your ideal office space. “First Impressions I & II: Medical Facility Planning Guide and The Patient Experience” can be viewed at: www.oma.org/pmresources.