The Doctor’s Office of the Future in Houston and Austin?

Dustin Staiger

Since the field of healthcare is always advancing, experts often consider what the future of healthcare will look like. Usually, they address changes in diagnostics or treatment. But one of the most important answers to that question may be found in the way medical facilities adapt their spaces to better accommodate staff, patients, and their families.

At McCoy-Rockford, we’ve been asking ourselves, what will medical office interior design in Houston and Austin look like in the coming years? We don’t have a crystal ball, but luckily healthcare furniture manufacturers like our friends at Steelcase have done their homework. They have a few ideas regarding what the future may hold for our local medical clinics and doctor’s offices.

Designing for Efficiency and Function

One of the biggest changes we expect to see in the future is related to examination rooms. The examination rooms of today are usually cold, uncomfortable, and are essentially identical cookie-cut designs. Often the only furniture available is an awkward padded table for the patient, and a rickety stool for the doctor.

These exam rooms are treated as one-size fits all, but in reality they add major barriers to quality patient care. Medical practices looking for higher engagement with patients are better off tailoring rooms to suit specific purposes.

“Multipurpose exam rooms may not go away, but they will see an upgrade”

Steelcase suggests that the future will consist of different types of exam rooms, like “Quick-care exam” spaces with minimal equipment or portable workstations, for patients who don’t need a full exam. We also anticipate “Consultative Care” spaces set up like meeting rooms for doctors to discuss care plans in-depth with their patients and their families. Multipurpose exam rooms may not go away, but they will see an upgrade with new healthcare furniture–like reclining exam chairs replacing uncomfortable exam tables.

Integrating Technology

Healthcare professionals are always eager to stay on the cutting-edge of medical technology. Meanwhile, adoption of technology to aid collaboration or better engage and educate patients has lagged behind. However, we expect many parts of patient intake, care plans, and tracking will soon be facilitated by technology. The high-tech health start-up Forward is one example of futuristic medical office interior design already operating in Silicon Valley.

 “Smart TVs or monitors…can be valuable tools for doctors to educate patients through displaying notes and care plans.”

While we won’t likely see full-body scanners as the standard for healthcare furniture anytime soon, we will be checking in and updating our medical histories via computer. Teleconferencing will allow staff to easily collaborate with colleagues or patient’s families to ensure the best ongoing care possible. Meanwhile, Smart TVs or monitors in patient and room exam rooms can serve as entertainment centers that allow patients to stream content, or they can be valuable tools for doctors to educate patients through displaying notes and care plans.

Prioritizing Comfort

Let’s face it. Going to the doctor can be uncomfortable and intimidating, even if it’s just for a check-up. When patients have to manage care for an existing condition, the experience can be even more stressful. The healthcare field is beginning to realize that patients depend on medical staff to not only care for their health, but to look after their peace of mind as well.

Doctor’s offices are shifting away from the bland and uncomfortable furniture that has previously dominated waiting areas and exam rooms. Instead, they are opting for more comfortable and plush furniture that allows a range of sitting positions. An increased emphasis will be on creating welcoming spaces with soothing colors, art, and entertainment options that put people at ease.

side note:

Some of this may sound like healthcare furniture is being replaced with designs from hospitality. Yes, comfort and colors are following that trend, but designers still need to account for healthcare-specific requirements related to materials that comply with infectious control, as well as bariatric and geriatrics standards.

Steelcase predicts we will see waiting rooms that are geared towards small, private groupings of chairs to allow families and friends to wait together. They also anticipate extra seating in exam and patient’s rooms so that care givers can participate in discussions between the patient and their health team.

Additionally, patient rooms will increasingly feature furniture that better accommodates overnight guests–like couches and cubbies for storage of bedding and personal items. Lastly, white boards can be used for writing down notes, directions, or questions so families feel more involved in the patient’s care, better communicate with staff, and have their concerns addressed.

key take aways:

  • Doctor’s offices will shift away from one-size-fits-all exam rooms, and instead focus on rooms that best suit their interactions with their patients.
  • Technology will become more important in collaborating with other medical staff, patient education, and will streamline a lot of the work involved with patient intake.
  • Doctor’s offices will begin to prioritize the comfort of not only their patients, but their families, who are increasingly involved in patient care.