There’s a fundamental rule that applies when designing a space. It’s called “the rule of compromise.” This rule states that for each advantage or benefit a particular design element offers, there exists an equal number of important disadvantages or non-benefits. This principle is similar to the physics law that states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When it comes to chiropractic office design, this rule is often evident in high-volume practices —that is, offices designed strictly for seeing the greatest number of patients in the shortest amount of time possible. This type of office tends to have one very large and wide open treatment room or area. The absence of walls allows the doctor and staff to move efficiently from table to table, which of course is highly efficient, but at the expense of patient privacy.
Just how much value does a patient place on being treated in a private setting as opposed to an open space where other patients are just a few feet away? It depends on a few variables, but marketing research indicates that most patients prefer the opportunity to receive treatment or discuss matters regarding their case in a private setting during at least some part of their exam. Knowing this, it only makes sense that every office, including those designed for ultimate efficiency, should also be designed to accommodate the patients’ needs.
So how do you design an office that offers adequate patient privacy, while maintaining high-volume efficiency? The answer is found in the rule of compromise. By compromising the elements that dictate each design concept, both privacy and efficiency can be achieved. I call it the “hybrid design” concept.
Let’s take a closer look at an example.
Floor Plan Overview
First, you’ll notice that the overall size is just 1,200 square feet —relatively small, so it’s a must to optimize the space. To conserve space, the front entrance, reception desk, and seating area are all kept to a minimum. Space savings implemented in these areas will be used on other, more functional areas.
Just beyond the reception area is a large, open-style therapy area. The wide-open design style used here allows staff members to easily navigate from table to table without being encumbered by walls and doors. The area also includes convenient access to a utility sink and storage cabinets.
Just past the therapy area is a short hallway that leads to a private side entrance used by the doctor and staff. The hallway provides access to two restrooms and features an array of wall-mounted file storage cabinets, plus a second small utility sink.
Another short hallway leads to two dedicated treatment rooms and an X-ray/examination room. The individual treatment rooms offer patients privacy during their time with the doctor. A small seating area near the treatment rooms allows patient flow to be handled more efficiently.
The hybrid design concept offers two traffic flow patterns. In the first pattern, the patient signs in at the front desk then immediately proceeds to the “hot-seat” area located near the treatment rooms. Once a room is available, the patient is then instructed to enter the room. After treatment by the doctor, the patient is directed to one of the therapy tables. After a few minutes of therapy, the patient proceeds back to the front desk to check out and make the next appointment.
The second pattern is similar to the first, except that the order is reversed. The patient receives therapy first and then treatment from the doctor. Either pattern works well; it’s simply a matter of preference by the doctor and staff.
Of course, the number of staff members required to effectively run any office always varies based on a variety of factors, such as treatment methods, volume of patients, time allocated for each interaction, administrative needs, etc. The office shown here should require between two and four staff members. Two staff members would be needed if seeing a low volume of patients (one to 25 patients per day), three for a medium volume (26 to 75), and four if seeing a high volume (76 or more).
The bottom line is that this hybrid design concept works very well. Patients are reassured that they will have some one-on-one time with the doctor, while the doctor and staff can work in an efficient and productive environment.