Space Matters, Especially in Healthcare

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Steve Jobs knew a lot of things before anyone else did. And some of the most important things he knew had nothing to do with technology. In fact, one of these non-technical facts was arguably more responsible for the success of Job’s enterprises than any other single factor: space matters.

THE SPACE YOU WORK IN, THAT IS. IT REALLY MATTERS.

Space contributes more to the success of a business than most of us realize. In fact, your workspace does some of the most important work of your business, especially if your value proposition is partly or completely dependent on your employees’ ideas, ingenuity, and brain power. How do you make sure you consistently generate the value your business is supposed to provide? If you’ve been in business long, you know that you can’t order it up like a box of widgets. Perhaps you could send out a memo: “Each employee is hereby requested to produce at least three torrents of creativity, care, support—or whatever it is they produce—per week.” Undoubtedly, this will produce an avalanche of brilliant value.

Instead, you could do something like what Jobs did when he was planning Pixar’s headquarters: locate the building’s mailboxes, coat room, coffee bar, snack shop, and so on in a large, sunny, pleasantly stimulating atrium. Pixar employees had to emerge from their cubes every day and mingle with their colleagues, some with completely different backgrounds and skill sets, in unexpected ways. Even those who were skeptical at first ended up agreeing that they often got more done during their coffee break than the rest of the day.

You may be saying, “Well, that’s Steve Jobs and Apple, but those esoteric considerations don’t apply to my line of work.” But that’s where you’d be wrong. The workspace of any business is an important tool—potentially quite a powerful one. It becomes an even more important tool when it’s a workspace that provides medical care, health support, and healing.

If you’re in healthcare, your space needs to support your physicians and your patients alike. If either group isn’t supported, you risk making them unhappy and unsatisfied. Physicians needs a comfortable space away from exam rooms to read and research complex issues. Patients need exam room space to be comforting and spotlessly clean at all times. It should therefore be designed with pleasing colors and artwork. Workflow must be set up to make interaction with patients easy and nonintrusive.

BUT HOW?

We’ve always been fascinated by the possibilities of space and see workspace as an integral part of a business’s strategic plan. When we sit down to begin planning a new ImagineMD location, we don’t start by asking, what kind of space are we looking for? Or, what’s our budget? We start with questions like: Where do we want this business to be heading? What resources do we most need to have close at hand? What are the primary forces driving our industry? Who do we serve and what brand issues should our space support? We don’t just execute real estate deals; we develop customized real estate solutions that work for our customers and our employees.

The first step for doing this is assessing how our company uses space, what it needs from its space, and how it should be using its space. What activities do our staff engage in daily? Weekly? Monthly? What kind of space do they need for these activities? Are there any clashing needs? We get everyone’s input and use it to create a map of how and where our company’s work needs to be done.

Based on this assessment, we develop solutions. Do we need to make changes in our goals, objectives, or policies? Do we need more flexible workspace arrangements? Many healthcare businesses are beginning to understand how beautiful design can improve a patient’s experience. We evaluate all the potential tools and strategies our workspace can use, calculate the probable return on investment, and make deliberate design choices to support them.

Next, we move into planning mode. How will we implement the chosen solutions? What technology platforms and communications systems are needed? How will these changes affect our business’s work plans and operating procedures? How will we test the new systems to make sure they work as intended, and what metrics will we use to evaluate their performance?

Finally, we fully implement the plan. We always stay intimately involved in directing the process of constructing our new spaces, enacting new schedules and work plans.

We’ve arrived at a watershed moment for companies providing healthcare. The status quo is being disrupted with new entrants to the marketplace like direct primary care. Healthcare companies have never focused on providing soothing spaces to make their patients feel at ease. It’s not only time for new health care companies to rise up and take over but also time these innovators created workspace solutions that enhance workflow, promote employee morale and retention, and boost organizational flexibility and agility while providing patients the best customer service experience possible.

NOW is the time to think about how you can put your space to work. We’re certainly doing that here at ImagineMD as we get ready to expand not just across the Chicagoland area but across the entire country. How will our space improve our ability to provide not only the best medical care but also the best customer service? That’s our challenge. That’s our goal. That’s what we’re determined to make happen.

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