Optometric Management Tip # 247   -   Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Analyzing Your Practice: A Clean Office

Continuing with the objective analysis of your practice from a patientís point of view, ask yourself if your office is really, really clean. Itís very easy for the doctor and staff to overlook details that they see every day and a dirty office may happen gradually and become part of the norm. It is not overlooked by patients, however. They are newcomers to your office and they notice the things they understand. A doctorís office that has cobwebs in the corners and grime on the instruments is not well-received.

It is one thing to have an office that has furniture and carpeting that is a little worn and outdated (not good, but possibly forgivable), but there is no excuse for dirt. Donít let the cost of a good cleaning service stop you; this is one expense that cannot be cut. Letís dive into this topic and make sure your office is clean, neat and hygienic.

Inspection

The first step is to walk around the whole office after hours with pen and paper. Start outside in the parking area and walk up to the front door of your office. Look for trash, cigarette butts and anything else that is unattractive. It does not matter if you own the property or lease space, it is still your office and we need an honest assessment. Next, examine the reception area, especially the corners of the room. Look into the business office at the check-in point; what does a patient see? Walk through the steps of a complete examination, inspecting the instruments and tables from the patientís side. Sit in the exam chairs and look around and to the extreme sides in the corners of the room. Realize that every patient you see does this. Continue your tour into every part of the office. Look at the counter displays and above the frame bars in optical for dust and cobwebs. Windows matter also; they should be washed regularly.

The Bathroom

The bathroom used by patients needs special attention for obvious reasons. People who use a public restroom want it to be very clean. Of course, the staff restroom is just as important. If the room is within your office, you have control over it. If it is in a common area of a larger, leased facility, you should still inspect it occasionally and insist that it be maintained often. See the section below on staffing for more on regular restroom maintenance.

Clutter

As you work to achieve clean floors, walls and furnishings, also make an effort to reduce clutter. Clutter is not dirt, but it is a disorganized, messy appearance that you may have become immune to. Some offices have papers and books everywhere and shelves and ledges covered with stuff. Clean house regularly and make the office look neat. Avoid letting rooms become crammed with extra furniture and equipment.

Staff Duties vs. Janitorial Service

In my opinion, every practice ought to hire a professional cleaning company to clean the office and bathrooms on a regular basis. In most offices, this job is too specialized for your staff to handle. They may not do a good job if they resent the assignment and it can put a damper on morale. But staff members should play an important role in cleaning on a day-to-day basis. Light cleaning and straightening up should be part of everyoneís job description from the day they are hired. We take that a step further by assigning specific cleaning tasks to certain staff members as part of their secondary duties. These side jobs are to be performed when time permits during the day. If tasks are left to everyone, it is easy for them to be ignored and assume somebody else will do it.

The specific areas that need to be checked and cleaned several times per day include the waiting room and magazine racks, the rest room (including waste baskets and supplies), and the coffee counter in the reception area. Frames must always be returned to the displays immediately after showing.

The clinical technicians in my practice always wipe the back of the phoroptor and the forehead rest of the slit lamp with an alcohol swab in front of each patient after seating him or her in the exam chair. This small step goes a long way to creating an impression of good office hygiene. It also catches some grime and makeup before it is positioned in front of the patient.

In my experience, commercial cleaning crews often do a poor job, especially over time. They will test you to see if you notice, so be sure to complain if you see the quality slipping. And you may go through a few firms before finding a crew that does a great job.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management