Optometric Management Tip # 477   -   Wednesday, April 13, 2011
How to Use the Second Exam Room

A second exam room has a huge impact on the productivity of the practice.  In fact, when we look at the relatively low cost of basic exam equipment, it may be the best bang for the buck one can get.  If you already have a second (or third or fourth) exam room, this tip will give you some ideas on how to use it to the best advantage.  If you are currently working out of one exam room, I'll present some strong motivation for finding space and equipping it now.

As I discuss your options below, keep in mind that I'm referring to multiple exam rooms per working doctor.  If you have two docs in your practice who work on the same days and three exams rooms, you don't have two exam rooms per doctor and you could gain efficiency if you added one.  While the second room gives the biggest jump in efficiency, a single doctor can find even more benefit from three or more exam rooms.  Working patients back into the flow after pupil dilation is much easier with three rooms.

Have the space but not equipped
Many ECPs have a second exam room in the office that is not equipped yet and they are not sure when to take the plunge.  Given that you can buy a very nice used or brand new chair, stand, phoroptor, slit lamp and digital acuity chart for less than $15,000, I would do it now.  Unless you are a new start-up practice or otherwise have severe cash flow problems, you should be able to lease, finance or just buy the equipment outright.  The return on investment is very big and I'll cover that in detail below. 

Don't wait for a sign that the time is right.  Equip the room now and you will immediately be more efficient.  Even if you don't yet have a lot of patient demand, you can see your current volume of patients in far less time and you'll position your practice to grow.  With an inefficient, slow schedule that spreads a few patients across a whole day, the doctor and staff members become accustomed to that pace.  The schedule appears full with twelve patients.  You must make a proactive change to that mentality.

Would like to equip but no space
I'll bet I could find an 8 by 12 foot room in at least half the offices that think they have no space for another exam room.  Of course, something has to give, but office space that can produce revenue should take precedence over other uses.  Here are some places to look for space to convert to a second exam room:

If you really can't find any additional space for a second exam room, you should consider looking for new office space.  Space limitations can hold your practice back and prevent growth.

How to use the second exam room
The key to making the second exam room pay is to allow you to see more patients in a shorter period of time.  Recognize that the act of moving patients in and out of the exam room consumes a lot of time.  If the doctor can move back and forth between two exam rooms and if the staff always has the next patient ready so the doctor does not have to wait, you can realize a huge increase in productivity.  Consider these factors to use the room to the fullest:

Multiple exam rooms provide a great return on investment.

Best wishes for continued success,

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