The look and atmosphere of your clinic can make as much difference to your image as the quality of your treatment. Michael Polakov, who has spent 27 years in medical architecture, explains how to show your practice at its best
Those who open clinics always say afterwards, “I should have made this a little smaller, that a little larger, changed that around.” If you spend 90% of your time planning what you’d like to accomplish, you only need to spend 10% on architecture and building, and you eliminate the need for changes before, during or after the build.
You should have three goals, achieved together. The first is that you, your staff and patients should feel beautiful when you cross the threshold. I want a patient who walks into a clinic to be destabilised almost, by the comfort, the coolness. You want them to hope to spend a few extra minutes in this gorgeous private salon.
The second goal is to receive remuneration at the top of the scale for the skill level you have. It’s not just about making money, it’s about feeling compensated for the effort you are putting in. It’s a nice feeling when patients are glad to engage your services. The third goal is that your calendar is booked enough in advance that you maintain a sense of security.
You need a total of about 600 square feet if you have a number of consulting rooms in someone else’s facility. For a private office with three examination rooms, bathrooms, a kitchenette, reception and waiting room I’d recommend 1,000 square feet. But a 1,500 square foot facility will give you the opportunity to have a partner or rent out one room.
If you do that, bring in someone with a similar clientele, which you can share. You can help build your practice, just by adding a few hundred square feet for somebody else to share the space.
If we go up to 2,000 square feet we have the ability to add a procedure room. At 3,000 square feet we can have a procedure room, two doctors and an aesthetician department. Above 5,000 feet we are creating a heavy machine.
Above 7,000 feet, unless you are a plastic surgeon with two other surgeons, two operating rooms and ancillary doctors, you have over-built and will work to pay the landlord or bank.
Costs per square foot run from £25 a square foot to freshen up existing consulting rooms; to £100 a square foot to renovate a facility or build a facility in raw space; up to £150 a foot for full operating theatres.
It is key for you to decide the internal style based not just on what you like, but on the strata of patient that you would like to be the foundation of your practice. Consider internal flow—do not build a bowling alley; a hallway with rooms on either side. A beautiful clinic is the same square footage and cost, someone just took more time to plan it.
A waiting room is a horrible thing. If I’m sitting and you walk past me I feel left behind because someone was taken in before me. But if your waiting room is a reception room where people are received, greeted and wait in a private area without others passing to and fro in front of them, it’s a pleasure.
Creating a network is also vital. Dermatology, plastic surgery, aesthetician services, cosmetic dentistry, personal trainer, dietician—these are all necessary if you want to have a growth practice where you do makeovers, because that is the future of aesthetic medicine.
You don’t need to have these people in your facility, you need to build a network of practitioners you trust, who can give the service that completes. For example, if you do a phenomenal facial rejuvenation on a person with bad teeth, send them to a dentist who’s a teammate of yours. To be unable to complete the look loses the overall wow factor.
Finally, understand your mission. What is it that you want to accomplish with your patients? Set your long-term goals three, five and 10 years ahead. Not only this but build something that you will either be able to turn over or sell very profitably rather than walk away from at the end of your lease term.