When you’re planning a new space or updating an existing layout, consider designing flexible space that can be used for multiple purposes. Multi-use rooms can be very economical, saving costs and increasing efficiencies. Here are three places to consider creating flex space:

1. Procedure Rooms

When designing new or remodeling a facility, look at the services being provided and ask ‘Can you perform several different patient services in one room instead of having a separate room for each procedure?’ While it might be a somewhat challenging task to schedule procedures around a room’s availability, the space savings and payback may be worthwhile.

At a Park Nicollet gastroenterology clinic I worked with, demand was high for another doctor, but the procedure area where colonoscopies were performed was already too cramped to allow for additional staff or procedures. After gathering patient and staff workflow data for a month, and studying operations in the clinic, we redesigned the four-room area. We were able to re-work patient flow into a “waterfall” schedule where patients came in every 10 to 15 minutes (beginning with the first appointment) along with the physicians, who we scheduled to coincide. As opposed to the old “batching” process, this new lean “waterfall” process ensured a steady flow of patients and allowed the work of the entire staff to flow smoothly. Volume dramatically increased, from 32 procedures a day to more than 70 a day.

2. Exam Rooms

The easiest way to get more use out of each exam room is to standardize the design so they’re all the same. When each room has the same equipment, supply needs and layout, you can assign patients – rather than physicians – to each exam room. Instead of allotting three exam rooms to each physician, you might be able to get by with just two needed for each provider.

3. Offices

We’ve found that, on average, physicians are only in their office for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Instead of giving each provider an individual office space, see if there’s a way for them to share an office, or create a bull pen type area. You wouldn’t build a conference room for every person – you just schedule meetings around when they’re available. Use the same philosophy for office spaces.