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Lets Get Physical – Architecture and General Practice

martin.jpgDoes the physical design of your surgery still support the way you look after your patients?

There is no doubt that general practice has changed over the last 10 years.

For one thing, we now have 9000 practice nurses that weren’t there in 1999. Not to mention chronic disease managers, diabetic educators, dieticians and exercise physiologists.

Yet most of us are working in’surgery’ that was designed last century.

How can we use practice design to facilitate team based care? How on earth can we get everyone to fit in?

The relative shortage of general practitioners has meant that we each need to spend more time ‘in the red zone’ – focused on the real value in what we do: the relationship with our patients. As Doctors Grand Plaza say: ‘only do what only you can do’.

Can the design of our surgeries make our workflow more efficient? Can they better support ‘assisted consultations’? Can we eliminate ‘muda’?

I have been lucky enough to visit many well designed and visually attractive surgeries, some of them very new. They have incorporated some excellent ideas. Certainly, they are much more functional than the old house in which we work, with its various add-ons and extensions.

However, they have the same basic features – waiting room, reception area, corridor with doctor offices (one per doctor), and a nurses room out the back, of varying size, with one or more beds. The newer ones have cool staff rooms, that are the envy of our practice team.

If you had the chance, how would you redesign your surgery? Would the waiting room be different? (a ‘patient lounge’ like at the Brunswick Heads surgery?). Could you improve your reception area? How about the location, size and number of the doctors’ offices? Given the emerging importance of practice nurses, how would you best provide facilities for them?

I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments, which can be posted below. I’d love to hear from you if you have addressed these issues in the design of your building – even if it is just in your dreams. Or perhaps you could ‘dob in’ a practice that you think has done a good job. Perhaps you’ve been impressed by a concept you saw overseas? Or maybe you’ve just got some dreams you’d like to share generously.

I’d like to feature some interesting concepts in a series of articles over the next few weeks.

PS Of course, I have an ulterior motive – we are planning on some ‘clinical redesign’ of our own.

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