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The patient-centered ambulatory facility: convenience is king

A presentation of research findings from The Advisory Board shed light on what patients really want

Earlier this month, our Toronto office hosted a breakfast session for healthcare clients featuring a presentation by Matthew Stevens of The Advisory Board. His research-based talk focused on the patient-centered ambulatory facility and left the audience of designers and healthcare officials with a number of considerations for moving ambulatory practices into the future.

Across North America, we are experiencing a shift towards the design and construction of more and more ambulatory facilities, inside and outside of hospitals.  This enables healthcare organizations to extend their reach beyond the high-acuity setting and provide more convenient services to more patients at, generally, a lower design and construction cost.  This model also strengthens disease management and prevention which, in turn, supports an increased focus on health and wellness. According to Mr. Stevens, two main principles anchor the strength of the ambulatory care model and must be reflected in their design:

1. Convenience is king

63% of patients indicate that wait times are “very” or “extremely” important.

Recognizing that patients highly value convenience, Mr. Stevens outlined a series of supporting imperatives:

  • Perfect the registration and check-in experience (reduce the perception of waiting – enhance the process, use of mobile tablets, electronic kiosks)
  • Streamline the patient rooming process (some organizations have trialed a process where patients proceed directly to an exam room on their own - “self-rooming”)
  • Eliminate clinic check-out lines (the check-out process  occurs directly in the exam room)
  • Reinforce self-management with team-based care (clinics with embedded workspaces for multi-disciplinary teams, and informal work areas for fostering collaboration)
  • Accommodate dedicated education space (for patient engagement in self-management)
  • Equip outpatient clinic for group visits (research indicated high patient receptivity to group visits, particularly where relatively standardized care plans apply)

2. Extended access to care, anywhere

Location is always a key consideration when planning healthcare facilities. We generally position healthcare facilities appropriately – responding to demographics, population density, transportation and regional/cultural considerations.  But for ambulatory care, there is a need to consider more factors to respond to patient desire for convenience and to support preventative healthcare goals. For example:

  • Ambulatory care facilities either converted from or embedded within retail settings that have flexible space and ample parking and access by public transportation – “form follows parking” (a phrase offered by one of our client participants)
  • Walk-in clinics in high-need areas or where vulnerable populations reside – make it easy to seek help!
  • Embedding clinics within the workplace – a win-win where employee sick time is minimized and convenience is maximized
  • E-connections – virtual visits and virtual follow-up options for ongoing chronic disease management . Why can’t doctor follow-up be by email/phone?

Many thanks to Matthew Stevens and everyone who made it out to hear him speak. Stantec’s relationship with The Advisory Board gives our health and wellness studio access to leading-edge research in the planning and design of healthcare facilities, and we like to take advantage of it. If you have a burning healthcare question, hot topic, or would like to know about our upcoming educational events, send us an email at We’d love to hear from you! And for more information on our ambulatory care experience, go HERE.

Jane Wigle is a principal and healthcare architect based in Toronto.

University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital - East Wing Ambulatory Care Centre

Across North America, we are experiencing a shift towards the design and construction of more and more ambulatory facilities.

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