As you consider the design details of the rest of your office, evaluate the condition of your bathrooms as well. Medical office bathrooms not only get a lot of use, but they also speak volumes about you and your practice.
Outmoded fixtures and furnishings – or even the lack of design flair – can give off the impression that you simply don’t care about the comfort of your staff or patients, while cracked tiles and poor lighting can be downright dangerous.
On the other hand, a fresh-looking bathroom with a few finishing touches indicates that the practice is run well and concerned about details. “The public bathrooms in a medical facility have to be a statement of hygiene, organization and flawless design coordination,” says Dennis Socolean, CEO of Sacramento, Calif.-based design company Rinnovo Group. “Crowdedness, using outdated equipment, or having old, stained utilities must be avoided as it goes contrary to the core belief of being a doctor.”
In some offices, bathrooms have not been brought up to ADA compliance, which leaves the business exposed to legal action. You could be forced to remodel for this reason alone. (See MOT’s story Are You Violating ADA Requirements?)
Even if your space is brand new or recently built out, the bathrooms could probably use a bit of design flair to keep them from feeling cold and clinical.
Make the bathroom feel like home
“The latest trends in medical office bathroom design include modern, clean lines that don’t look too sterile,” points of Michael V. Swain of WBSA Architects in Irvine, Calif. “The trend is going more towards the residential look.”
Designer-type materials are being used to give the office bathroom a look of elegance, but going green – choosing sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials – also is popular. “Utilizing environmentally-friendly fixtures and energy-efficient materials is top of the list,” Socolean notes. “Tiles that look like natural stone are replacing the fiberglass panels that were originally installed.”
In addition, consider heated toilet seats, glass tile accents and energy-efficient hand dryers in lieu of paper-towel dispensers.
Upgrading your bathroom doesn’t have to be expensive
Floor finishes, wall finishes, paint, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and countertops can all be changed for relatively little money, Swain says. “There are tile manufacturers such as Porcelanosa that offer contemporary styles on a budget, without compromising cleanliness or durability,” he points out.
Keep in mind that now may be the ideal time to create a designer-looking environment that’s within your budget. “With labor and product costs down significantly, we’ve been able to build completely new medical offices for as low as $55 per square foot, and oral surgeon offices for as low as $70 per square foot!” says Socolean. “Couple that with low-interest-rate loans, and remodeling is the most affordable it’s been in years.”
Most bathroom remodels can be done in a jiffy
Swain says most bathroom models can be done quickly, minimizing any downtime and inconvenience for your staff and patients.
“If it’s a single-use restroom, the work can be done pretty quickly – possibly as quickly as a day if it’s merely to change a light fixture or up to a week (for work on floor and wall tile, countertop, sinks, etcetera,” Swain explains. “It depends on the scope of the remodel.”
Some projects can be accomplished on weekends or after hours, although you may pay a premium for labor. This option may depend on the city in which you’re located and when it will allow contractors to work.
Even if you need to remodel a bathroom over time while your office remains open, contractors should be able to create a dust barrier that will contain dust to the construction areas. This scenario works best if there is another restroom in the facility with enough separation between the remodel area and the patient area. (See MOT’s story Five Tips for Remaining Open during a Remodel)
Remember, too, that since bathrooms are relatively small and intimate, small touches really make a difference. Aside from keeping them impeccably clean and disinfected, make a statement with artwork on the walls, fresh flowers, pretty soap dispensers or a beautifully framed mirror. These accents will go far toward helping patients and staff feel cared for and comfortable.