The representational function of clinic design: Staff and patient perceptions of teamwork

Objective: This study empirically investigates the relationships between visibility attributes and both patients’ and staff members’ teamwork experiences.

Background: Teamwork among healthcare professionals is critical for the safety and quality of patient care. While a patient-centered, team-based care approach is promoted in primary care clinics, little is known about how clinic layouts can support the teamwork experiences of staff and patients in team-based primary clinics.

Methods: This article measured teamwork perceptions of staff members and patients at four primary care clinics providing team-based care. Visual access to staff workstations from both staff and patient perspectives was analyzed using VisualPower tool(version 21). The relationships between teamwork perception and visibility attributes were analyzed for each entity: staff members and patients.

Results: The results showed that the visual relationships among staff members and those between staff members and patients have significant associations with overall perceptions of teamwork. While clinics providing more visual connections between staff workstations reported higher teamwork perception of staff members, patient perceptions of staff teamwork were inversely related to the number of visual connections between patients and staff workstations.

Conclusions: The findings of the study provide implications for designing team-based primary care clinics to enhance the teamwork experience of both staff members and patients, which is also applicable to teamwork perceptions in other settings where both inhabitants and visitors are main user groups of the spaces. This study illustrates the representational function of space: Organizations can emphasize their values via layout design by regulating what they show to inhabitants or visitors.