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It would seem that a clean office environment would simply be a given in eye care practices today, but that's not always the case. I don't think any practice owner wants to have a dirty office, but when you see the same spaces day after day, it's easy to simply not notice. It's easy to just hope no one else notices.
As part of our analysis of every aspect of your practice, let's consider housekeeping duties and janitorial services. This is an area that requires continuous vigilance because commercial cleaning services have a way of letting attention to detail drop if you let them. And staff members do not usually like housekeeping duties and may even think those tasks are not part of their job duties.
A clean office can actually be a competitive advantage. I've always felt very good when a patient mentions how clean our office is.
A dual approach
I believe housekeeping should be managed with two resources: an after-hours cleaning service and daily cleaning by the entire staff. Some offices try to get by with just one of these, but I think the effort usually falls short. A cleaning service is needed to get the tougher areas such as bathrooms and floors, but we also need continuous light cleaning such as straightening up the reception area and emptying waste baskets.
I think janitorial services should come to most offices at least twice per week when the office is closed. One of the visits could be on the weekend and could be a longer service for deep cleaning. The other visit could be mid-week in the evening. Toilets must be thoroughly cleaned at every visit. The practice owner or manager should check the quality of all the work on a regular basis and communicate with the service if it slips. Corners and baseboards are areas that are frequently overlooked.
A truly clean office should not just look clean, but smell clean. Ask a friend or spouse to perform a smell check on your office upon walking in from outside. Weird odors are common in medical offices and they are hard to detect when you're too close to them.
We communicate to all new employees that housekeeping is part of everyone's job description. Each staff member concentrates more on their own work areas, but everyone must be on the lookout for problems. Receptionists pay attention to the magazines, the coffee bar, the patient bathroom and the entry floor tile. Opticians keep an eye on the display areas and dispensing tables. Technicians clean exam rooms and pretest rooms. Everyone empties wastebaskets in their areas. The staff lounge area has its own rules with everyone cleaning after themselves, but a rotating daily assignment takes care of general maintenance.
I find one of the best ways to have a job neglected is to assign it to everyone. Typically, everyone waits for someone else to do it and no one is really accountable. I get around that by assigning key people to supervise the housekeeping throughout the day and to coordinate the effort of others. Staff members are not approved to leave work until key cleaning tasks are completed.
I like every employee to have specific secondary duties, which they are expected to take care of proactively every day during times when patient care is not needed. Housekeeping assignments are an excellent side job.
Clutter vs. dirt
All the cleaning in the world does not overcome stacks of papers at the front desk that no one has time to get to or electrical cords that run hodge-podge in the exam rooms. Take the time to look at what the patient sees in every area of your office. Clean out the clutter by discarding old stuff and moving items to a storage facility. Your office looks much more attractive and efficient if it is neat as a pin.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
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Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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