Data Insights

Optimizing medical practice space for new technology

MGMA Stat

Business Strategy

Practice Efficiency

Christian Green MA
The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders if they’ve modified their practice space or infrastructure to accommodate new technology in the past year. In response, 34% answered “yes,” while 66% answered “no.” Respondents who answered “yes” stated they:
 
  • Redesigned clinic areas to adapt to new EHR workflows
  • Added server rooms
  • Added imaging equipment or patient trackers.
 
This poll was conducted on July 16, 2019, with 883 applicable responses.

During the past decade, medical practices have spent billions of dollars on patient-focused healthcare technology to improve access, efficiency and quality of care. Not surprisingly, the importance of doing so was reflected in the results of a November 2018 MGMA Stat poll, which found that 70% of healthcare leaders planned to adopt technology to increase practice efficiency in 2019.

This may entail changing office space to meet technological requirements, whether that’s adding real-time location services (RTLS), telehealth services, check-in kiosks or something as simple as Wi-Fi for patient use, for example. In addition to these improvements, modifications to office space can also help enhance staff productivity and patient satisfaction. In factoring in these adjustments, practices should assess how they currently use their space and then determine how to optimize the space when implementing new technology. The following are just a few examples of technological considerations that could affect practice space.


RTLS


With this automated communication system, each step of the patient experience is shared in real time. It requires tracking by medical assistants or other support staff on monitors or other devices to observe room, patient and staff status. For some practices using this model, waiting rooms are no longer necessary. Instead, there are dual-action patient rooms in which patients enter through a sliding door from a public area, while providers and staff enter from a private entrance on the other side.


Telehealth solutions


There are many ways telehealth can be employed in practices — fixed video teleconferencing (VTC) systems, carts/kiosks, web-based solutions — which may necessitate changing office space to accommodate these services. There are several points to consider when offering telehealth: room requirements, such as size, location, flooring, wall color, lighting; data and conduit pathways; and power. Furthermore, it’s imperative that network connections are wired, rather than wireless, because traffic could affect devices connected to the wireless network. Although many of these factors don’t apply to telemedicine carts/kiosks, it’s important to have a stable network connection and power outlets wherever a cart is placed.


Check-in kiosks


Practices may want to explore the option of implementing registration kiosks to improve intake efficiency and patient experience, while also providing secure access to patient information. From an infrastructure standpoint, kiosk installation factors include optimal placement for confidentiality, patient compliance, electrical and IT wire runs, and compatibility with practice management software (PMS).


Wi-Fi


Given its ubiquity, Wi-Fi may seem like a no-brainer for any practice, but speed is of the utmost importance when considering the amount of time that can be saved when using patient portals and medical apps and devices. Patients also appreciate fast and reliable Wi-Fi connections for personal use as they wait; however, it’s vital to segment traffic so that devices using medical system software are secure and take precedence. Beyond Wi-Fi itself, charging stations and even work carrels can be considered to improve patient experience.
 
Additional infrastructure considerations include eliminating offices to free up space for more exam rooms, removing chart rooms with the advent of EHRs, phasing out server rooms with cloud-based IT solutions and adding larger exam rooms to accommodate family members. Ultimately, patient flow and staff efficiency matter most when considering all of these options.


Additional resources:
   
MGMA Stat is a national poll that addresses practice management issues, the impact of new legislation and related topics. Participation is open to all healthcare leaders. Results of other polls and information on how to participate in MGMA Stat are available at: http://www.mgma.com/stat

To learn more about healthcare technology, join us at MGMA19 | The Annual Conference, Oct. 13-16 in New Orleans. Registration is now open. For more information and to register visit mgma.com/bigeasy19

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About the Author

Christian Green
Christian Green MA
MGMA Writer/Editor MGMA

cgreen@mgma.com

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