A divided exam room is a variation of the standard medical exam room that is drawing interest in clinic space planning. This design model is appropriate for medical practices that choose to provide concierge care in which patients (sometimes called members) pay an annual fee for the opportunity to have easier access to a physician and longer appointments with a wellness focus. It is also ideal for integrative medicine practices where more time is spent with each patient discussing lifestyle modifications. Actually, Mayo Clinic was the first to initiate a combined consult/exam room referred to as a “Mayo room” many years ago.
This multi-use space has all the features of a traditional exam room and also includes an area for consultation, counseling, and education. A divided exam room may be a multi-room suite or condensed into a single room with dual-use for examinations and consultation.
The most basic divided exam room is simply a larger than average exam room divided into areas by use. One side of the room will contain the exam table, diagnostic equipment, sink, storage cabinets and clinical supplies while the other side is designed for comfort and to facilitate discussion. The consultation space may consist of two lounge chairs in front of a large monitor or simply a table with comfortable guest chairs for the patient and physician to sit and talk. The consultation space should be comfortable and inviting. The seating should be arranged to promote communication between the patient and physician. The monitor may be used to review medical records, educational material, or to display stress-reducing nature images. The consultation area may also include a wardrobe, display shelves, art, magazines and diagnostic equipment. The design team may choose to make the consultation area visually different through use of materials to reinforce the purpose of the space.
If space allows, an exam room and consultation area can be divided into two rooms, separated by a door, offering the patient a more relaxing environment to encourage discussion. In this configuration the patient waits in a private consultation room with access to a TV monitor with educational programming, music, reading material and wireless Internet. The healthcare provider sits side-by-side with the patient in comfortable lounge chairs facing a wall-hung monitor to review lab reports, radiographs and to view medical images or videos if necessary. Vital signs are documented in this room and electronically uploaded to the patient’s health record. Once the consultation ends the exam continues in the adjacent exam room. This configuration also includes a private toilet and designated nurse station.
Designing a suite-style exam room can be beneficial in many ways but may not be the answer for every clinic.
Seeing more patients in less time is the goal in our current healthcare system as reimbursement keeps spiraling downward but when physicians are incentivized to keep people healthy and focus on prevention, longer appointments in a dual-use exam room makes sense.