A blueprint for veterinary areas

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Dr. Marty Greer built with her husband Dr. Dan Griffiths opened her first clinic, Veterinary Village, in a bean field in rural Wisconsin. The two later built on that practice and added an entirely new concept – one that included a three-space garage for customers who may have mobility issues or weather-related issues like slipping on ice. In addition, the garage spaces benefit from pets that cannot be moved or are stressed out in standard exam rooms.

JAVMA News spoke to several architects and veterinarians about trends in hospital and clinic design, including unique offerings such as drive-through service and glass windows in exam rooms to allow pet owners to see into treatment areas. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way most veterinary practices work, but according to experts, it hasn’t disrupted the design trends seen before the pandemic, just accelerating the existing ones.

For example, Dr. Greer had long been building a transit clinic, but she sat on the idea for almost seven years. When the pandemic caused most veterinary practices to move to the curb, she was disappointed that her newest veterinary clinic, Checkout Veterinary, was not yet up and running. Construction on the building near Madison, Wisconsin wasn’t completed until March. Dr. Greer says the space was designed with the comfort and convenience of customers first. It has a garage with four parking spaces and is only passable. If necessary, it can be expanded to four more parking spaces.

Dr. Greer hopes to franchise the patented design in the future and believes more veterinarians will embrace the idea.

A drive-through garage bay in the Veterinary VillageOne of the drive-through garages in Dr. Marty Greers Clinic, Veterinary Village, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (Photo by Edmunds Studios)


Daniel Eisenstadt is CEO and Chairman of Terravet Real Estate Solutions, a real estate group that owns approximately 1 million square feet of veterinary and other healthcare properties in 30 states. He says veterinary medicine is “under-parked”.

“Parking has always been a challenge for many veterinary practices,” he said. “There were parking problems before COVID, and it has now accelerated as pet owners waited in their cars.”

Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community, said staff safety should also be considered in parking lots.

“Depending on the parking lots and lights, you might not want your staff to run across the parking lot and parking lanes to get pets,” said Dr. Varble.

Instead, clinics should be able to control traffic and the lots should be well lit so staff are safe when collecting pets. Dr. Varble added that it is not just a question of designating parking spaces for roadside service, but also ensuring that parking spaces are arranged and designed to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

The NAVC holds an annual hospital design seminar in which veterinarians receive important tips for converting or building a hospital.

Eisenstadt said investing in parking and the flow of parking lots will remain a high priority as roadside services continue. He suggested that proper parking lot signage and signposts are key to keeping the property safe and moving.

Treatment area in the ParcView of the treatment area in the parc in Fort Worth, Texas. The examination rooms flank the treatment area with full glass in between so that customers can see exactly what is going on. (Photo by Tim Murphy / Fotoimagery)


In one practice there is a completely different flow to consider.

Ashley Shoults, partner at Animal Arts, an architectural firm specializing in animal care, said more exterior doors will be used for direct access to exam rooms in the future. This way, anxious pets don’t have to enter through a waiting area or lobby.

“There’s also a chance the waiting room will go away,” Shoults said. “Not exactly, but they can be a lot smaller.”

Shoults added that she sees veterinarians needing more office space for telemedicine calls and that some waiting rooms or lobbies could be converted into offices or exam rooms.

“The top priorities are revenue generating spaces,” said Shoults. “And the right flow through the room so that there is no inefficient floor plan.”

According to the latest AVMA Practice Owner Survey, the average practice decreased by about 200 square feet between 2019 and 2020. However, the average number of examination rooms remained constant at around three.

Outdoor exam room at Adobe Animal HospitalAn example of an outdoor exam room at Adobe Animal Hospital in Petaluma, California (Photo by Tim Murphy / Fotoimagery)


Some practice owners are considering removing the dividing line between the treatment area and examination rooms.

Shoults said that typical pet owners want to be more involved in caring for their animals.

At Modern Animal, a California-based startup with a clinic in West Hollywood, it’s all about that transparency.

Dr. Christie Long, a small animal veterinarian who serves as director of medicine for Modern Animal, said the clinic’s design allows people to see from one end to the other.

“If you stand on the sidewalk, you can look into the surgery,” said Dr. Long. “There is a porthole in the operating suite. … letting customers take a back seat and watching the care of their pet enhances our expertise, especially for veterinary technicians. “

Veterinary practices in the U.S. have had to make changes due to the pandemic and various social distancing policies, including Modern Animal.

The clinic opened in the middle of the pandemic, but part of its original concept was an app that enables texts, chats and videos. This has helped the company move easily to providing roadside services.

Shoults said she expected a lot of new design concepts in the next few years after the pandemic.

“People have ideas,” she said. “They didn’t necessarily start implementing them because we’re still doing it.”

Shoults suggested that vets looking to remodel or build a new space should consider the following:

  • Do you have any idea what you would like to do.
  • Use the correct finishes and finishes.
  • Consider your ventilation system carefully.
  • Talk to people who know how to design these facilities.
  • Think of unique design options like drive-through access, outdoor waiting areas, and exterior examination doors.

Modern animal treatment areaThe treatment area of ​​Modern Animal, a clinic in West Hollywood, California (courtesy of Modern Animal)


Eisenstadt believes the COVID pandemic will also change the space veterinarians who are dedicated to selling pharmacies and pet food. He also expects veterinary practices to move away from converted homes.

“They are often of the highest quality for practice and poorly suited to the work environment,” said Eisenstadt. “They were homely; They emerged from one-doctor practices. But from a heating, ventilation, and workflow perspective, they’re not great. There is a worldly trend towards thoughtful renovation in terms of design, but I see more earmarked or earmarked.

Eisenstadt said there has already been a movement in the direction of this trend, but COVID has accelerated the shift towards buildings with more single tenants, and he also anticipates a move away from shopping center-based practices.

“It is more difficult to offer services and taxes on the roadside if there is a pizzeria and a nail salon next door, since other customers have problems with parking and the flow of traffic,” said Eisenstadt.

Dr. Greer considered many elements when designing and building their transit hospital, but customer needs were paramount. She once saw a sign that said, “Stop selling what you have and sell what they want.”

She pointed out the full glass walls in the examination rooms and the drive-through concept, which is what pet owners want because they create less stress for the animal and more comfort for the customers.

“Vets have always done what they do, but they don’t necessarily do what customers want,” said Dr. Greer. “It’s not about what the vet wants or needs, but what the client needs.”