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  • Libby Laguta, CHID, EDAC

Defensive Medicine

Back in 2015, the New York Times published an article which summarized that the physicians' best defense against litigation was to communication better with patients and families. This is still a true statement today.

Many times, I feel rushed through my appointment and rarely does a physician sit down to discuss my visit with me. The few times that I felt synergy with my caretaker included eye contact, a friendly banter, then pointed questions followed by a dialogue which ended with me having a new understanding of my medication or illness. That would be deemed a successful visit. While I was in dialogue with my physician, the assistant was busy inputting the information into the computer. All was recorded.

The days of a standard exam room equipped with an exam table, casework for storage, a computer station, a side chair, and a physician stool are passe. The educated consumer/patient now expects interaction and friendly exchanges of personal chatter followed by more serious exchanges of health status and symptom checks. A physician who gets to know his or her patients is more effective at spotting differences in health changes.

The designer can support the process of dialogue and discussion by the room design. The basics of furnishings and equipment are now supplemented by the addition of a place to sit side-by-side and review charts and visuals on a screen. In some cases, videos are available for patients to watch in the exam room to delve deeper into understanding their steps and process in care. The provision of warm wood finishes are not the only means to ease the stress of a doctor visit. The layout of the space plays an important role as well. When the entire room becomes usable and there is no separation between the physician area and the patient area, there is a sense of equality established. Adding upholstery and more comfortable seating also creates a space that speaks to a caring and interactionary environment. The patient feels empowered and welcomed. This is the future of healthcare.

Today's standard of exam room layout


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