Higher building costs coupled with clients' higher expectations for care put you in a challenging position. Adopt these forward-thinking strategies to position your new practice for success.
Here's the good news: With careful planning, it's still possible to design an affordable hospital that stays ahead of industry expectations. But it's also true that some societal trends are putting new pressure on the veterinary industry. And these trends translate into new facility needs. For example, you may want to consider these issues:
For example, let's say you decided to develop a strong reputation in the fast-growing areas of therapy and rehabilitation. You might build rooms that help you address these needs.
In the trenches: Factors affecting costs
To appeal to these mobile pet owners, you may want to offer spa and resort services for pets. Apartment-like animal housing, up-scale grooming, and landscaped outdoor recreation areas all appeal to this crowd. Some hospitals also choose to include high-end retail to give clients the convenience of one-stop pet supply shopping.
Balancing the tug-of-war between your wallet and your dreams can be as simple as coming up with strategic design solutions. The following strategies seek to reduce circulation, incorporate multi-use spaces, and increase efficiency.
Advances in technology make this change possible. As wireless computer networks become more prevalent, you can conduct business transactions anywhere in the practice. Checkout can occur in exam rooms. Your team can schedule appointments from anywhere. You can enter data in records anywhere anytime. All this means you no longer need to chain basic business functions to your reception desk.
Veterinary practices have changed dramatically in the last 50 years to meet increasingly specialized market demands. You've proven you can adapt to a clientele that continues to place higher value on the health and well-being of companion animals.
Future hospitals will continue to provide settings for the industry's highest level of care. And they'll become more dynamic so you can squeeze more services and functions into less space. To find the right creative solutions for you, set aside your notions of what a traditional hospital does. Focus instead on what you know yours could do.
Lawrence A. Gates is a senior partner of Animal Arts/Gates Hafen Cochrane in Boulder, Colo. Heather E. Lewis is also a partner with the firm, which has designed more than 300 veterinary hospitals and more than 40 animal shelters and has won 28 awards in the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition. Lewis will speak on animal housing and functional flooring at the 2006 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference, Aug. 23 to 25 in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, visit www.thecvc.com/hd.
Lawrence A. Gates
Heather E. Lewis
Exam rooms generate the most profit per square foot of any area in your practice, and they determine the number of clients you can see at any given time. Use these strategies to make the most of this critical space.
Varied-height counter tops at Magrane Animal Hospital in Mishawaka, Ind.
By Wayne Usiak, AIA
Years ago, a veterinary hospital was a single room for reception, examination, diagnosis, and treatment. Medical advances, client demands, competition, computerization, and increased business skills all inspired change. Now, exam rooms serve as a center for doctor-client interaction.
Clients spend most of their visit in the exam room. The experience influences their opinion of you, your practice, and the value of your service. It's where you consult, deliver your medical diagnosis, educate, and learn about their pet's place in their life. The bottom line: You enhance your bond with the client in the exam room, so set the right stage.
While the standard for many years was 1.5 exam rooms per on-duty veterinarian, today most progressive hospitals build nearer to three. Five is usually the maximum for an in-line arrangement. If you have more, consider L-shaped, U-shaped, or pod groupings for efficiency. You also need to decide between one-door and two-door exam rooms. With two doors, you minimize congestion by splitting client and team traffic patterns. But one-door exam rooms save space, and may allow an exterior window, if placed along an exterior wall.
To make everyone comfortable, you want to provide adequate space and comfortable seating. How many people does your exam room need to accommodate? Consider assistants and clients' family members. Multiple occupants generate more heat, and exam rooms overheat quickly, so make sure there's also adequate ventilation and exhaust. Other issues:
Also think about how you'll incorporate a trash receptacle, pharmaceutical and supply storage, sharps disposal, model space, retail display, and built-ins like otoscopes with chargers.
Many hospitals today provide special features in one or more exam rooms so that rooms can do double duty. Consider these strategies to provide services beyond a typical wellness exam in your rooms.
From floor to ceiling, and doorknobs to light fixtures, all the pieces and parts of the exam room affect clients' perception of your practice and their comfort and confidence in you. In addition, a well-designed room means a better working situation for you and your team members. So give this critical space some extra thought, and make sure you've made the most of your opportunities.
Wayne Usiak, AIA, NCARB
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Wayne Usiak, AIA, NCARB, is a senior partner with BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M. He'll talk about design trends, integrating equipment, and building a hospital on a budget at the 2006 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference, Aug. 23 to 25 in Kansas City, Mo.