Clinic Design: The Exam Room

May 30, 2012
Many exam rooms today are flexibly designed to accommodate evolving care models. Photo credit: Dana Wheelock Photography.
Click To View Image

While most exam rooms feature basic components that have been standard for many years, their size, interior layout, aesthetics, and relationship to adjacent spaces are evolving.

This is primarily because the activities occurring within exam rooms have changed in the past decade—and will continue to change.

Exam rooms vary between clinics depending on location, care philosophy, patient population, specialization, and other factors.

For example, clinics that focus on fast, convenient care often have compact, uniform exam rooms that have just enough room for an exam table, supply storage, basic seating, and possibly a small staff work area.

Conversely, clinics that conduct multiple tasks within an exam room—from patient check-in to obtaining lab specimens, conducting consultations and scheduling follow-ups—strive to create flexible, comfortable exam rooms because they are completing more tasks and patients will be in the room longer.

In other instances, developments in care delivery are transforming the exam room. For instance, a Care Suite configuration combines consultations and exams into a single suite with furnishings arranged so that physician and patient sit side-by-side and discuss test or exam results over a table.

In the Exam + Rooms configuration, the exam room is slightly larger than average with the additional space used for educational purposes, especially for seriously or chronically ill patients.

Still, other exams rooms may be more flexibly designed—with nofixed elements besides plumbing, for instance—to allow emergingcollaborative care or group exam models.

Whatever the configuration, the exam room is the focus of any clinic because all roads lead to the exam room. The most successful exam rooms streamline work processes, help alleviate “white coat anxiety” for patients, and break down barriers by placing the caregiver side-by-side with the patients as patients take greater ownership of their healthcare.

Ensuring that design supports the program is important for the overall success of a clinic.

For the other blogs in this clinic design series, please see:



Exam Room Design

I enjoyed your observations. One comment on the "side by side" relationship. My view is that that is best created when the patient is looking at the computer screen (along side the doctor) as the doctor enters the notes. The doctor still retains the formal relationship as the expert, but demonstrates complete openness in the process.

I am currently working in Beijing on new Chinese hospital designs where outpatient services are the single most profound difference between Chinese and international/ western healthcare. Outpatient exam rooms are a conbination exam, consult, and private physician office with the physician ramining in the same space for the day and patients are bought in for generally very short exams and consults. Thats a subject for another blog.

Chinese Hospital

Sounds interesting. I would be interested in seeing the three-part exam room you've designed.

Ideal size?

Another great and thoughtful entry into the series, Chris... I wondered if you have an ideal size in mind for the clinic exam room? Is there a specific square footage that you find to be ideal, or at least the average of what's out there? Thanks!

Ideal Exam room size

The most common size is 120 square feet, however some clients will go up to 140 sq. feet.