“What are your goals?” is the first question Catherine Erikson asks physicians when helping them design or redesign their practice spaces. She runs two businesses, Medical Interior Design, and Healthcare Marketing Group in Los Angeles and New York. She helps doctors design locations in a sustainable way that efficiently handles patient flow. She works with solo practitioners, small to midsize groups of all specialties, urgent cares, medspas, and outpatient surgery centers. “We take everything into consideration when designing and marketing a practice,” Erikson says. “We need to know who the patients are and what type of experience they expect. We discuss how to make the best use of technology and what amenities will make their staff happy.” Population health management, she adds, is a key trend right now where doctors aim to manage those patients with chronic conditions, say, those with diabetes or a vaping habit.

Erikson must manage expectations when working with doctors to get the most use out of their spaces. For example, one client in California only has 1,800 sq. ft. but wants to fit 3 exam rooms, 3 infusion areas, an operating room, and a sanitation space. She has advised him to buy compact furniture, sinks, and cabinetry, along with exam tables that can easily be moved. Another client, a pediatrician in New Jersey, is in the process of rezoning a historic home into a commercial space with 3 levels. The first 2 levels will offer offices and exam rooms and on the basement level, she’ll add a Mommy & Me concept where she’ll sell her own branded baby products.

Erikson encourages doctors to become creative with their locations. This may include, for example, having a mobile nurse’s station, a no-wait waiting room, a floating exam room, or a dual practice, say, with dermatology on one side and aesthetics on the other. Through use of EMR technology and texting, doctors can offer mobile engagement and become better at managing their patients’ appointment times. A text can notify a patient if the doctor is still on schedule or running behind, so patients only enter the practice when they’re going to be seen and no longer need to wait.

Often, Erikson and her team will tie interior design to the logo so the floor plan and wall color are complementary and can be easily replicated at other office locations. “We talk about concepts in the design process and especially about how technology can improve clinical health,” she says. Technology is becoming much more important in servicing patients and Erikson says they’re finding interesting ways to get more people to connect and work together with technology.