“Audiology Practice Space Design’’ is a bit of an unusual topic, especially for clinical audiologists, yet it is an important one.Times are changing, especially in healthcare. Audiologists are trained to be specialists in the auditory system and prepared for the clinical aspect of their practice. This training, in turn, prepares them to work and exceed in the clinical aspect of their practice. Audiologists are often trained to work IN a practice, but are rarely skilled in working ON a practice.
In our previous posts, we covered the basic aspects of starting out in private practice and selecting the right location.
But what to do with your space once you have it?
Before we delve into the interior design of your practice, we must first consider what is needed in terms of rooms or spaces that may need to be separate. This guide isn’t only for established professionals, it’s also for audiologists who have just started out in private practice and those who plan to. In this article, we will cover some of the fundamental areas.
So what is important for your space?
This may seem obvious but many healthcare facilities don’t have easily accessible restrooms. If you are in an office block where restrooms are shared make sure to have visible signage to direct your patients to the right area. Always ensure that your facilities are in tip-top shape.
A Comfortable Reception/ Waiting Area
As mentioned in our previous post on 3 Pro Tips For Selecting The Perfect Audiology Practice Space ,the design and overall ambiance of your waiting room will determine how patients perceive the quality of the care you provide, according to Arnold Melnick.
I suggest selecting comfortable chairs and providing up to date magazines to keep patients occupied. An offer of a cup of good tea/coffee or water will also go a long way to making patients feel good about their experience.
A receptionist can be a wonderful asset to you and your practice. They will welcome patients, handle inquiries, and manage bookings. If you are starting out, do what you can with what you have. Remember, all great things started with small beginnings.
A Testing Room
This is the room you will use for your day-to-day consultations. Depending on the space, this room could be used for screening, diagnostic tests or hearing aid fittings if space allows. If your space is limited, you may, with some careful planning and a little creativity, get away with just one room other than the waiting area to perform all your day-to-day duties. Keep in mind, however, that this room would have to be able to accommodate all of your equipment.
A Hearing Aid Fitting Room
Provided only 1 audiologist is using the space, hearing aid fittings and testing can be done in the same room. Keep in mind the basic necessities to allow for hearing aid fitting. This includes a computer to install the programming software, a hearing aid programmer (e.g. Hi-Pro), impression syringe and impression material. Additionally, one might need to have stock of hearing aids, batteries, and tools for adjusting and repairing hearing aids as needed. With that in mind, sufficient space should be provided for the hearing aid fitting ‘station’. Fitting requires much less space than your testing area, this is especially true if you use a booth for your testing. As such this area could be a separate room or just an area in a room. Generally, audiologists would have a hearing aid fitting room as a standalone, as the audiological test room has limited space as a result of a sound booth occupying most of the room space. Technology is evolving, and smaller, booth-less audiometers with the ability to attenuate sufficient ambient noise as a sound booth are available. Use your space smartly. And where you can free up space and use it for what is of utmost importance.
Audiologists have a wide array of clinical responsibilities. These responsibilities can be grouped into two terms, hearing healthcare services and balance related services. Start-up audiologists rarely practice the latter. A therapy room can be used to provide aural rehabilitation services to children and adults. For children, you might want to have interactive resources or tools to stimulate communication such as toys, in which case, a dedicated room is a necessity. A therapy room may be used to provide tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT).
Once your different rooms have been allocated, you can start thinking about the look and feel of your practice. This should represent your brand while providing a comfortable caring environment for your patients. To drum up ideas on the style you would like, platforms like Instagram or Pinterest are fantastic resources and a great way to gather some inspiration and direction with your practice design.
You might not be inclined to tackling a design project on your own, in which case consulting with an expert is a good idea. Interior decorators and designers are often just what you need to get you through the creative hurdles, providing your budget allows. Going it alone? Friends and colleagues are another fantastic source of creative input to make your practice inviting and comfortable for your guests and with a little persuasion (a glass of wine) they may even pick up a paintbrush.
Have fun with the space, and remember that your only limitation is imagination. It only takes a little creativity (yours or others) to maximise and customize your space, even on a small budget.
We would love to see what have done with your practice, and sharing your ideas will help inspire others to do the same. Engage with us in the comments section below and share this with all your colleagues and friends.