Urgent Care Building Goals and Medical Office Design

Realistic construction goals, operational understanding, and efficient planning lead to successful office design of urgent care facilities.

Outpatient clinics and medical offices, particularly urgent care facilities, often serve as an alternative place to receive healthcare. When individuals are unable to get to a hospital, or in rural areas where the population does not warrant a large ambulatory or hospital facility, small outpatient clinics and urgent care buildings can save money AND decrease ED visitors.

A CDC study contributes the basic growth in the population aged 65 and older to show a 26% increase in Emergency Department visits over the last 20 years; meanwhile, ages 50 to 64 saw a 15% increase and ages 22 to 49 a 19% increase.

Recent data from ED visits in 2015 shows that of 136.9 million visitors, 12.3 million (<10%) resulted in hospital admission while 1.5 million (<2%) resulted in admission to the critical care unit. The percentage of patients seen within the triage target time has declined a mean of 0.8% per year since 1997, most as result to population increases and unnecessary ED visits. The best way to avoid the constant decline of triage target time is to reduce the number of non-urgent ED visits.

Percentage of ED patients at community settings:

Emergent 10%

Urgent 50%

Non-urgent 40%   

About 50% of ER visits could be handled by an Urgent Clinic and greatly reduce the volume at ED’s

Medical Office Design Requirements for Efficient Operations

Organizing and completing field work along with discussions with core staff, allowed the research team to organize the clinical practice within three primary zones:

  1. Office Support encompasses the public and clerical realms of the family practice. The public spaces (“Front of House”) include patient check-in and access to educational information. The clerical area (“Back of House”) entails the business administration of patient processing.
  2. Clinical Support (lab and nurse areas), encompasses the technical and nursing components of the family practice that provide supplemental treatment and evaluation of patients. The first area supports diagnostic activities while a second area supports the nurses.
  3. Provider(support and direct care). has two general areas including care delivery support, with work space for providers, and direct patient care areas for the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients.
  4.  General Support includes shared storage and server requirements.
mob clinical office design

CMArchitects Design Hypothesis

Patient satisfaction will increase as a result of active participation in care processes.


Patient satisfaction will increase as a result of the therapeutic environment.


Retrieved education materials in resources area will increase patient satisfaction.


Clustering frequently used spaces (MRI, Imaging, storage) and providing adjacency for providers greatly minimizes travel distances.


Provide a relaxed comfortable atmosphere and include exam table, flexible furniture for visitors, digital display monitors, sink, cabinets, etc.

Medical Building Project Goals

  1. The design of the facility should assure a high quality of care through the adoption of efficient work processes.  
  2. The clinic should support patient and family-centered care in order to align care practices and delivery with patient expectations.  (Institutional and clinical settings are typically associated with a sense of loss of control, resulting in increased levels of fear, stress and anxiety. The organization and operation of the clinic should provide patients a sense of respect, control and independence.)
  3.  Utilize technology-enhanced design concepts to allow for fluid and continual upgrades to latest technologies that provide rapid access to patient medical information.  (Technology continually and rapidly evolves)
  4.  Design flexible spaces that can accommodate changing needs in technology and care practices over time.  Improve physical features in the built environment that appeared to be in conflict with the goal of patient privacy regulations (HIPPA regulations) (Visual and acoustical privacy violations)
urgent care office design

Urgent Care Design and Planning Considerations

Below are few planning considerations we advice every owner / operator.

  • Allow the UCC to expand and contract efficiently throughout the day.  (Daily patient flow)
  • Consider the impact of information technology.  (Picture of family practice computer)
  • Allow staff to have a general awareness of the entire UCC.
  • To the maximum degree possible integrate specialty areas.
  • Prioritize what should be in the clinical area.
  • Anticipate the basic need of the staff.
  • Analyze each project on patient centered relationship medical home.
  • Give Patients and family choices.
  • Establish a security plan and standards.
  • Determine requirements for Occupational Health and/or Internist.
  • Anticipate that key strategic assumptions will be wrong.
  • Make the floor plan intuitively clear to both patients and staff.


Author: Brent Hunter


Resources: CDC

Related Articles

Check out this useful article from the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine:

Urgent Care Center Build Out

See more of CMArchitect’s medical offices design tips:

Design for Successful Small Medical Offices

Check out Our Healthcare Work