Optimal planning for the medical practice – from reception to waiting room

Practical tips and recommendations for planning a medical practice

Waiting room with Vitra chairs

Developing an appropriate design concept for the medical practice

A visit to the doctor doesn't just begin in the treatment room, but rather at the reception and in the waiting room and tends to proceed more smoothly if you have the feeling there that you are in the best hands. A consistent, well thought-through, design concept ensures a positive and confident overall impression with a lasting effect, in addition to offering technical support. And while the best fit interior recipe differs from doctor to doctor, there are some functional, legal and aesthetic tips for the design of the reception area and waiting room that should always be considered when planning.

The sum of all parts – keep a focus on the overall concept

Whether a new building, a conversion or a renovation of a practice, the big picture always comes first. In addition to medical competence, it should also reflect personality and interpersonal relationships. The following aspects need to be combined:

  • Compliance with all regulations and guidelines 
  • Implementation of the hygiene concept
  • Functionality of the individual rooms and their furniture
  • Ergonomics for employees and patients
  • Feel-good atmosphere 
  • Colour and light concept
  • Expression of the corporate design

The legal practice – Important regulations and guidelines

Not only functionality and design must go hand in hand, regulations also have to be adhered to. In order to avoid nasty surprises later, these should be taken into account when planning, not least because the rules not only affect occupational safety and protection against infection, but also the floor plan, for example, DIN standards for barrier-free construction, traffic routes, escape routes and emergency exits, room lighting, the placement of X-ray systems as well as sanitary and staff rooms. In addition to fire protection requirements, sound and heat protection and the necessary ventilation of the interior, there are also special functional requirements for floors, walls, windows and doors. The relevant regulations depend on the respective federal state:

  • State Building Code (Landesbauordnung)
  • Working Conditions Act
  • Workplace Regulations
  • Workplace guidelines
  • Accessibility
  • Accident prevention regulations
  • DIN and EN standards for X-ray equipment and lighting
  • Drinking Water Ordinance
  • Protection against infection law
  • Hygiene requirements according to the current RKI guidelines
  • Medical Devices Act
  • Ordinance on Hazardous Substances
  • TRBA 250
  • Ordinance on Biological Substances
  • Data protection

Welcome! - The key to a succesful reception area

It all starts with the reception, a space which provides the patient's first impression and thus should give him a good feeling. The reception is where registration takes place, information is exchanged, appointments are made and documents are prepared for the doctors. In addition, it is the central work area of the practice team. The reception should thus not only be spacious and bright and have a good indoor climate, it should above all be designed in such a way that the staff are happy here, experience optimal working conditions and have everything ready to hand.

  • Reception desk: A counter with storage space for bags, information materials etc., as well as a compatible space for the staff to work on which all documents and computer technology can be organized, is recommended. 
  • Organisation: Despite advancing digitisation, there remains a need for sufficient storage space for files and patient information, ideally in the form of containers, shelves or a wall unit.
  • Workplace: Even if the staff is constantly on the move, sometimes standing at the counter or sometimes sitting, a height-adjustable ergonomic chair is essential.
  • Cloakroom: In order to relieve space in the waiting room, a cloakroom stand or cupboard as well as further storage options should be considered in the entrance area.
  • Privacy: Reception and waiting room should be separated from each other in order to protect the patient's data protection. Transparent room dividers made of glass or plastic separate the rooms while allowing them appear open and spacious. In this way, the practice team and the patients can remain in eye contact and the information remains confidential. Computers, printers or fax machines should also under no circumstances be visible to the patient.

A short stay – A feel-good atmosphere in the waiting room

Hardly a visit to the doctor's isn't accompanied without waiting, which can usually not be avoided despite the best planning. With an integrated and coherent room concept this wait can however be shortened, or at least made to feel less long. In which context, lots of air and light, comfortable furniture, light and warm colours, interesting reading material and green houseplants make a significant contribution.

  • Take a chair: Sufficient ergonomic seating is essential, after all, one is waiting. Whether chairs, armchairs or benches with wall protectors, it is important that the material is robust and easy to clean and still offers the patient a high level of comfort.
  • Informative diversions: To shorten the perceived length of stay, or to distract from fear and worries, the latest daily newspapers, a diverse portfolio of magazines for different target groups, puzzle books and specialist brochures laid out on side tables, shelves or in brochure stands are invaluable. Some practices also have a TV or offer their patients water and soft drinks.
  • A visual journey: Selected paintings, photographs and murals can underline the design to match the colour concept – from photographs to regional artists to popular classics.
  • Natural relaxation: Indoor plants not only create a pleasant atmosphere, they can also help calm you. However, only non-flowering plants in hydroponics are suitable – without mould spores and allergy triggers. Sounds of nature or quiet music can also help to switch off.
  • Fresh air: In a room where many sick people gather, you have to ventilate regularly. The windows should therefore be easily and quickly opened and/or tilted and the waiting room should not be too crowded in order to promote an effective exchange of air.
  • Children's corner: A separate area for the little ones is useful in all surgeries, not just paediatric practices. Toys, books, seat cushions and enough space to move about are greatly appreciated, while a colourful carpet, a child-friendly painting table and matching chairs provide activity and distraction.
  • Minimise the risk of infection: If possible, there should be a separate quarantine room for contagious diseases. For less risk and a better feeling on all sides.
Waiting room with Vitra furniture
Play corner in the waiting area of a medical practice

Official hygiene concept

In order to ensure infection prevention beyond the waiting room, many statutory health insurance associations have drawn up guidelines that regulate the entire hygiene management in medical practices. For areas without a greater risk of infection, such as the reception area or the waiting room, a principle focus is that floors, furniture and other equipment are easy to clean and disinfect. In addition, the materials used must be robust in order to withstand this regular treatment in the long term. Curtains, roller blinds and slats must also be wipeable or washable. Despite all hygiene measures, however, the right balance between sterility and comfort should always be sought so that patients can not only feel well protected but also feel good.

Plays of colours and light

Light sets our rooms in scene and has a significant effect on our quality of life – it is not for nothing that light is often considered the fourth dimension in architecture. In a medical practice the lighting should be bright, welcoming and above all work-friendly. As far as possible daylight ensures a healthy and natural atmosphere; however, the optimal light depends on the respective room and must be coordinated with the colour concept. Even if white tones have a hygienic justification for medical clothing, a practice does not necessarily have to whitewash itself. Not only does such come across as monotonous, but also leaves a cold, impersonal and sterile impression: in contrast warm tones, pastel colours or even contrasts provide variety and fill the rooms with liveliness. And therefore a professional colour concept should be created that relaxes the patients, motivates the employees and, above all, fits the corporate identity.

A practice with character

A well-planned and well thought-out practice design not only fulfils functional requirements and aesthetic demands, it also functions as a unique selling point with which a practice can position itself and stand out from the competition. Therefore, the design concept should be based on the corporate design and follow the logo, the website and the print materials. This is the only way to create a rounded overall picture with recognition effect, which reflects competence, sovereignty and individuality in all areas – so that the doctor's visit can be a positive experience from the start.