In today’s value-based care environment, greater emphasis and attention is being given to patient/caregiver interactions and experiences in ambulatory care in an effort to enhance the overall quality of care provided and outcomes realized.
A number of widespread industry trends are converging at the point of care to increase the significance of the interactions and experiences occurring in the space. These include:
- Value-based care is placing more emphasis on outcomes and patient/caregiver experiences.
- Shifting patient/caregiver demographics are changing how exam rooms and equipment are experienced.
- Increased connectivity at the point of care is making it easier to create a fully connected ecosystem that provides seamless experiences.
- Growing standardization within healthcare organizations is allowing good experiences and outcomes to be duplicated.
As these forces continue to reshape healthcare and impact the exam room, many healthcare organizations are struggling to place equal weight on increased efficiency and caregiver/patient experience and interaction as a way to provide better quality patient care.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an “either-or” approach.
The key is adopting a patient-centered approach that views the clinical space, exam rooms and patient/caregiver interactions as part of the point of care ecosystem. The point of care ecosystem encompasses the direct interactions between patients and caregivers, as well as processes, equipment and other interactions within the practice or clinic that could impact the patient experience and efficiency levels.
Adopting a patient-centered approach provides a framework where the equipment in the exam room becomes a strategic component of the point of care ecosystem. Having the right equipment in the room can help ensure a balanced approach that enhances experiences and increases efficiency.
Exam Room Design
While technically not a piece of equipment, the design and layout of the room is one of the most important foundational elements in the practice. Since this is the area where patients and caregivers spend most of their time, having the right layout and configuration can help strike the right balance of efficiency and experience. Correctly configured rooms help eliminate accessibility issues, create an inviting environment for patients and allow versatility for introducing new equipment.
The primary focal point of the room is the exam chair. This patient positioning device allows caregivers to efficiently deliver quality patient care while offering comfort. The ideal exam chair for a balanced approach is one that offers the functionality of a clinical device while offering various comfort design elements of a chair. A low height of 17 to 19 inches allows patients to access the chair with little to no assistance, while an integrated scale weighs patients quickly, efficiently and discreetly without requiring the patient, devices or physician to move.
Today’s caregivers need workstations that provide the flexibility to support the integration of technology, such as electronic medical records (EMR) and tablets, within the room while improving caregiver/patient interaction. Workstations need to enable organizations to easily bring digital information to the point of care without sacrificing workflow or negatively impacting the caregiver/patient experience. Also, adjustable workstations allow caregivers to maintain a proper working position without sacrificing eye contact with the patient.
Casework and cabinetry designed specifically for medical environments is often more durable and will not break down under medical use, unlike common wood casework. To help reach a balance, it is important to have casework that offers multiple style options while being flexible and durable enough to meet the highly specialized needs of clinical work. Proper height levels for sinks and base cabinets ensure accessibility for patients, while modular design allows workplace components to be easily configured to fit workflow and maximize space.
It is important to have the right medical lighting in the exam room. Adequate lighting can increase a patient’s confidence in the caregiver’s ability to see clearly and accurately during procedures and exams. Counterbalanced lighting is easy to maneuver and provides precise positioning without drifting. Large reflectors provide an even distribution of light and reduction of shadows for uninterrupted illumination.
As the industry continues to evolve, it is even more challenging and vital to ensure an effective, patient-centered clinical environment that is conducive to the delivery of high-quality care. Adopting a patient-centered design approach, one where the equipment helps balance efficiency and experiences at the point of care, can help create an ambulatory care environment conducive to achieving better quality care and outcomes.
Kurt Forsthoefel is director of medical marketing for Midmark.