There are a lot of things to consider when you’re thinking of redesigning your medical office. You have to consider what budget and resources you can afford to dedicate to your redesign, for example. What décor and furniture will best suite your practice. And what changes will ultimately benefit your practice and your patients the most.
There’s an almost endless list of choices when it comes to upgrading your medical office design or medical office furniture. You can do anything from remodeling your clinic to look like a Spanishvilla, to simply replacing the waiting room furniture with more comfortable chairs. But while it’s easy to get caught up with all of the exciting possibilities, whatever you do when redesigning needs to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act - ADA codes.
Easy access to medical facilities is especially important for people with disabilities. Not only do they deserve to be able to see their doctor and receive the same quality of treatment without any barriers, but those with disabilities often need to see their doctors more often. It is key to ensure your medical office design allows easy access for those with disabilities. Disabledpatients need to receive checkups and treatment for problems as they arise, before they can become serious issues.
Private and public medical clinics or hospitals are covered by two different Titles in the ADA. Public hospitals and medical offices (operated by state or local government) are covered under Title II. Private medical offices and hospitals are covered under Title III. Both of these Titles state that medical providers and their facilities should provide “full and equal access” to all healthcare services and spaces, as well as “reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures when necessary.”
Medical facilities need to provide all the same accommodations that any business would in order to meet ADA codes. Things like:
However, unlike your standard coffee shop or convenience store, medical facilities also have many unique considerations to keep in mind when it comes to staying ADA compliant.
"Having accessible exam rooms for disabled patients is essential to providing quality medical care."
One of the most important of these is exam rooms. Having accessible exam rooms for disabled patients is essential to providing quality medical care. It’s important that your medical office design allows plenty of room for patients with mobility issues and aids to maneuver, and that your medical office furniture provides appropriate assistance and support to allow disabled patients to be examined and treated.
Having accessible medical furniture is a big concern for medical clinics. Just like all patients, disabled patients often need to lie down or assume special positions in order to be examined or treated properly. This can sometimes pose an issue, as a mobility-challenged patient may have a hard time, or be unable to, get onto a regular examining table and assume certain positions unassisted.
Height adjustable exam tables or chairs are one of the ways that you can accommodate your disabled patients. Installing a height adjustable table or chair should allow you to lower the equipment to the height of 17 to 19 inches (the height of a wheelchair seat). Your accessible exam table or chair should also have features to support and steady patients, like movable handrails, cushions, or straps.
Some patients will need more help and support than others, and staff should always take the initiative to ask patients about the best way to help them, and what equipment might be needed. Some patients may need more help getting onto the exam table than simply adjusting its height.
Some patients may need help being physically lifted onto the exam table or chair. Specialized medical furniture like patient lifts are one of the best ways to transfer patients safely. Using lifts can reduce the risk of injury for both patients and staff. Lifts can be portable, freestanding, or over-head mounted, all of which have their pros and cons. The best option for your practice will probably depend on your space limitations, and how able you are to make permanent alterations to your medical office design.
Last, one of the biggest barriers for patients seeking treatment can sometimes just be the space they need to maneuver their wheelchair or mobility aid. In order to comply with the ADA and–more importantly–make navigating through your clinic as easy as possible for your patients, there needs to be plenty of room. This is definitely something to consider when redesigning or remodeling.
Exam rooms need room for patients to maneuver easily. A minimum of 60 inches by 60 inches of clear floor space is required to allow patients in wheelchairs or with mobility aids to turn 180 degrees freely in the exam room. There also needs to be 30 inches by 48 inches of clear floor space by at least one side of the exam tables so that patients can easily sidle up to the table and transfer to it. Keep in mind, some disabled patients may only be able to transfer to and from the table from their right or left side. Providing space on both sides or the exam table or accessible exam rooms with mirrored floor plans may be needed to accommodate different patients.
Doorways need to have a clearance width of 32 inches when opened at 90 degrees. This can be accomplished by either widening the entire doorway, or installing offset hinges to widen the opening. The doorways also need to allow for maneuvering clearance on both sides of the door, and the doors themselves can’t have handles/hardware that requires pinching, grasping or tightly twisting in order to open.
These are by no means the only things you need to think of when it comes to accommodating your patients with disabilities and staying compliant with the ADA. But, hopefully, we’ve given you a good starting point.
You can learn more about the ADA at https://www.ada.gov/, and about the full regulations required for both public and private of facilities at www.ada.gov/reg2.htm for Title II (public) facilities, and www.ada.gov/reg3a.html (private) facilities.
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