Top 7 Design Guidelines for Ambulatory Surgery Centers

Back in the seventies, one could wait months for doctor appointments, spend several days in the hospital for a procedure and several weeks out of work recovering. In today’s Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs), you meet a specialty team of experts who swiftly schedule your procedure and provide quality care with equipment and facilities that are tailored to your specific needs. So how do we continue this positive, efficient momentum and prepare for future growth? Here are the top 7 design guidelines to consider in the design of your ASC. 

  1. Collaborate with physicians and staff involved.
    Getting physician and staff input upfront is crucial to the successful design of your facility. Understanding what is important to each member of the team allows the designers to address their needs in the concept development stage. Wearing and walking in a lot of different shoes is key for this collaborative strategy to be successful. When you hear a team member utter things like “wow, thank you, no one has ever asked me what I thought about that before”, you’ll know you’re doing it right.
  1. Remember that flow and proper balance = efficiency. A smaller footprint is not the only way to increase efficiency when it comes to ASCs. Ideal flow and appropriate layout of pre-op treatment and recovery relative to each specialty increases proficiency. When appropriate for your business model, placing the business office staff near patient check-in might allow a team member to jump in and assist with admitting during peak times. Similarly, positioning the schedulers close to the operating rooms (ORs) proactively facilitates rapid answers to questions and solutions to problems that may arise with the timetable.
  2. Provide ample space for storage and processing instruments. Designing narrow, long equipment rooms that provide access from either side (instead of a square dead end) helps staff to easily grab-and-go without hassle. Ensuring adequate space for sterilization and cleaning of materials will help thwart infection concerns.
  3. Address staff needs. Thoughtful planning techniques in surgery center staff and physician break areas outside the restricted zone, such as incorporating natural light and access to nature benefit staff and patients alike. After all, sunlight has been linked with lower stress. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the emotional and physiological benefits of visual and physical access to nature: stressful and negative emotions decrease while pleasant emotions increase. Even small gardens located in healthcare settings such as ASCs offer waiting family members and staff the opportunity for direct interaction with the restorative, calming effects of nature. For staff who may have a 10 or 12-hour shift, appropriate, nonglare light levels brought to the tasks at hand can also improve staff accuracy and effectiveness.
  4. Plan for expansion. As ASCs have diversified over the past few years, planning for future expansion is vital to the sustainability of these facilities. Design that supports flexible expansion and efficient delivery of services will accommodate many of the recent changes in surgery centers such as movement of total joints as well as spine procedures to these facilities.
  5. Offer flexibility. Given the trends of newer specialties joining the existing three big specialties in surgery centers — ophthalmology, GI and orthopedics — it’s important to recognize that these different areas have varying needs in operative and recovery timing. For example, ophthalmology surgery may take 15 minutes followed by 30 minutes of recovery while spine surgery may take anywhere from 2½-7 hours, with the patient spending about the same length of time in recovery as they did in the OR. Identifying which specialties are assigned to each OR will allow you to thoughtfully place large medical equipment to accommodate varying procedures, — instead of relocating for each procedure — preventing damage and the need to recalibrate technology in the future. Bottom line: design your ASC to accommodate multiple specialties.
  1. Design for patient experience Best for last. We understand that warm, engaging and personalized environments help patients recover. In fact, we are experts on the entire Patient Experience topic #humblebrag. (But seriously, on March 20, 2017, one of our Thought Leaders is co-presenting on Positive Correlations Between the Patient Experience, Organizational Performance and Facility Design: Learning from Research and the Field at The Beryl Institute National Patient Experience Conference in Denver, CO. And our research was recently accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Patient Experience Journal.)

So back to the specific connection between ASC design and patient experience. An empathic knowledge of the patient demographic will support the ideal design concept and plan for a first-impressions-matter space like parking or the lobby. Plan these spaces mindfully, tailored to the patients in the surrounding community and you could add to the following statistic: patient centric design has resulted in a 92% satisfaction rate with both the care and service they receive from ASCs.

Summing it up Safe, high quality service, ease of scheduling, greater personal attention and lower costs are among the main reasons patients cited for the growing popularity of ASCs. Given the increase in patient demand for outpatient surgery, we must continue to grow and develop ASCs to successfully provide convenient, cost effective outpatient care.