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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor July 5, 2006 - Tip #233 
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Office Design Tips

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Additional Information

Last week's tip focused on the advantages of owning your own building and making the office impressive. I'll continue that theme with some ideas to consider when designing an office. Having seen many optometric offices in my career and designing several for my own use, here are a few design tips that I think make an ideal office.

The big picture
  • A large optical area is important. This idea is not real popular because most ODs really like clinical work much better, and they want to emphasize the exam areas. There are so many wonderful diagnostic instruments available today, and the efficiency of multiple exam rooms is undisputed, so the tendency to devote space to clinic is understandable. But resist it and make the optical bigger, if revenue is of interest to you. The competition for the eyeglass sale is growing increasingly fierce, and private doctors must offer an obvious reason for patients to stay put with their Rx. Optical dispensing is important to the most important person in the office: the patient. And optical produces about 50% of gross revenue in the average optometric practice. That revenue is achieved without the doctor, so don't pass it up.
  • If you really want a lot space for exam rooms, try to make the whole office facility larger than the usual 1500 to 3000 square feet. I would like to see the optical area at least 1000 square feet.
  • I prefer to see a real waiting area when you walk in the front door - not an optical shop. But I think it's ideal if the patient can see the optical from the reception area.
  • Two entrances (one for the clinic and one for the optical) have some real advantages, but they both must be staffed at all times.
  • A parking lot that is larger than you need is a must.
  • A large illuminated sign with your practice name and logo is a sound investment.
Details to consider
  • Have at least four exam rooms. I find 10 by 12 or 9 by 14 feet to be good sizes.
  • Include several pretest and special testing rooms. How these rooms are used may change over time. Very small rooms for a single instrument, like threshold visual fields, make sense. Placing a retinal camera and corneal topographer together works well.
  • The doctors and the office manager need private offices. You aren't just seeing patients; you're running a business. It will be much more successful if you take that part seriously.
  • Include a technician station near the clinical area, but with some privacy for placing orders, calling patients, and doing the administrative work of patient care. It could be coupled with the contact lens and pharmaceutical sample inventory.
  • A dedicated room for contact lens dispensing seems outdated to me. Most offices could better use the space for other purposes.
  • File rooms are less important because the future is with electronic medical records. Still some file space is needed for business records.
  • Inner waiting or dilation rooms can be a fine idea - but a larger general reception area may be more comfortable and more impressive. Many patients are taken to the optical while dilating anyway. A widened hallway or alcove with chairs is smart so patients can be held for a few minutes while waiting for a busy room to open up.
  • Include an on-site optical lab. Plan enough space for surfacing and finishing.
  • More storage space is always needed. I'd design a basement or second story for storage if suitable in your area.
  • A staff lounge is not a luxury. They are great for lunches, breaks, staff meetings and conferences. Including one helps staff morale and retention.
Keep in mind that these tips are aimed at designing the ultimate office, which may not be financially possible in the early stages of practice. But visualizing the ultimate goal is one of the keys to making it a reality.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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