Research is key for determining the best place to set up shop

Whether you’re opening your first medical practice or expanding an established practice to another location, where to put down roots is an important decision. It impacts how many and what type of patients you’ll attract, what services you can offer, and ultimately whether your business will thrive or not.

Before you sign a lease, you’ll need to do your research to determine the perfect space to meet your practice’s current needs and future goals.

Do your research

A crucial first step is to research where your ideal patients live. Do you serve an elderly patient base? Then setting up shop near a retirement community would make sense. Are you targeting young professionals? Consider a location in a city center near businesses and major employers.

Research the demographics of the local population where you’re considering opening a new location, as well as competition from other providers.

The U.S. Census Bureau is one place to start your research on the demographics of the local population. You can also reach out to the chamber of commerce in the city or town you’re considering for detailed demographic information such as household incomes, age distribution, race and ethnicity, education, etc. Data will also tell you whether the population is growing or shrinking. “Growing parts of the country will need larger pools of providers to meet rising healthcare demands,” noted Zocdoc’s The Script blog

It’s also a good idea to research the local medical community in an area you’re evaluating as a potential new location for your practice. “You also need to consider things like proximity to hospitals and referring physicians,” health care consultant Kenneth Hertz, FACMPE, told Physicians Practice.

And of course, there’s the matter of competition. Are there already providers in your specialty in the area? Older, established communities tend to be saturated with providers, while newer neighborhoods may offer more opportunity. “Check the press releases of area hospitals, local media, local government planning commissions, or local city licensing boards to see if any competition is on the way,” suggests Physicians Practice.

Consider convenience

According to a recent survey about how patients choose doctors, 70 percent of respondents said a convenient location was either critical or very important. This means your practice must be close to where patients live or work, and easy to get to. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a location within 20 minutes of the residential area you hope to serve,” according to Zocdoc.

70 percent of respondents said a convenient location was either critical or very important. Click To Tweet
Convenience is key for patients when choosing a doctor. Consider traffic and parking when looking for office space for your practice.

Be sure to consider traffic patterns and commuters in your calculations. Being located off a major highway might be convenient, unless many of your patients will be fighting rush hour traffic to get there. In that case, a more suburban location may actually be more convenient.

Even the side of the street you choose for your practice matters, noted HealthcareSuccess.com. “If most of your patients make appointments after work and rush hour traffic is heavier going west, that’s the side you choose. It’s more convenient to a customer to turn right into a building’s driveway than to turn left or make a U-turn.”

Parking is an important consideration, too. According to Zocdoc, “Free parking is always preferable. And aim for a location with a spacious entryway where elderly, injured or disabled patients can be dropped off and picked up without difficulty.”

Make sure your new space meets your needs

That brings us to the matter of determining the ideal physical space for your new location. A cardiology practice would be better suited to a medical office park, while a pediatric practice might do very well in a retail walk-in location, suggests Physicians Practice.

The layout of the space is important, too. “Evaluate what you’ll be doing,” said Brennan Cantrell, commercial health insurance strategist for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Will you be doing procedures? Will you need lab space?” Significant renovations may be necessary if the space previously wasn’t being used as a medical practice. 

Make sure the physical space and layout of potential office space can accommodate the services you offer, or plan to offer in the future.

If your practice is planning to offer cosmetic services, for instance, you will need to designate space and resources to bring it up to par with the standards of discerning cosmetics patients. “The whole office has to be appropriately upscale and concierge-like so that patients with disposable income will want to have their [procedure or treatment] there,” according to Robert Goldberg, M.D., president of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Similarly, if you will be designating a portion of your eye care practice to optical sales, design and décor is one of the main ways you can set your practice apart from the competition. “More eye care practitioners are realizing that the look of their office needs to be on par with national chains like Starbucks, Pottery Barn, and Lenscrafters if they want to attract and keep patients,” wrote Barbara L. Wright, a certified interior designer in North Carolina who has designed more than 600 eye care practices. This advice also goes for ENT practices offering hearing aid dispensing.

Stay tuned for Part 2

In Part 2 of this post, we’ll discuss some specifics of negotiating a lease and go into greater detail about how to design your space to work best for your practice. In the meantime, check out our eBook, How to Design the Perfect Waiting Room for Patients.