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    Andy Stonehouse, MA
    Building design may seem like the last consideration for healthcare leaders, but taking the steps to incorporate well-thought-out design can help a healthcare company better serve the needs of its patients, as well as better position your physical space for future needs, according to Kristin Dufek, AIA, vice president, Eppstein Uhen Architects. 

    “I’m an architect that has spent the bulk of a 25-year career exclusively in healthcare architecture,” she said. “Fortunately for me, I also have an undergraduate degree in pre-med in biochemistry and used to work in a hospital, so I’m building the architecture with a lot of understanding of what it’s like to be inside the walls of a hospital and healthcare system and how architecture can really matter for people.” 

    That insider expertise has made Dufek particularly aware of the importance of strategic physical planning to help deliver care in a more efficient manner. Even small details such as color can play big parts in creating a comfortable and efficient atmosphere and are worth enlisting the help of a design professional.   

    “[Practice leaders] need to understand that strategic decisions can have facility implications and that architects and designers can help support decision-making,” she said. “Design can be a reflection of your brand … the care that gets delivered within your facility. If you have space that is streamlined and straightforward and efficient, that reflects how you run your practice.”    

    Dufek said her most important advice for healthcare clients is to “be brutally honest about what you’re trying to accomplish when you’re working with the design team. Then, we can really understand how your reimbursements of services can be done in a different level of care facility or what kind of infrastructure you might need. Also, don’t be afraid of a few new ideas. This is an exciting time in healthcare. Things are changing very fast.” 

    Dufek explained that flexibility in planning is key, especially for providers eventually shifting to more acute care. They can then work with building designers to have future flexibility in HVAC or plumbing systems, rather than requiring expensive and extensive retrofitting down the road. 

    That also includes a focus on ergonomics and the ability to collocate care services so that patients – and providers – don’t have to transit great distances on a daily basis to interact with one another. 

    “Efficiency has been something that we talk about in the initial planning of anything new and really understanding how to minimize footsteps, because nobody’s treating patients or making money if they’re walking down hallways,” Dufek said. “We try to optimize where patients and providers interact and also understand how providers interact as a team themselves to help support one another. We’ve been doing more and more clinics that have dual-sided exam rooms – one side is the patient hallway, the other side is where the provider and care team access that exam room. We call it ‘on stage, off stage.’  

    “Also, understanding a pandemic response and what the last year and a half has made us think in a different way about separation of people … but also separation for airflow. It’s been an interesting time to be an architect.” 

    Dufek will be speaking on medical practice design at MGMA’s Medical Practice Excellence: Leaders Conference in San Diego Oct. 24-27 and will also be featured at MGMA’s Digital Experience (DX) Nov. 16-18.

    Hear more from Dufek in this episode of the MGMA Insights podcast: 


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    Written By

    Andy Stonehouse, MA

    Andy Stonehouse, MA, is a Colorado-based freelance writer and educator. His professional credits include serving as editor of Employee Benefit News and a variety of financial and insurance publications, in addition to work in the recreation and transportation fields.  

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