An office that is scrupulously clean creates a very positive patient experience. Patients really do notice and will comment about it on surveys. They also notice the opposite condition: an office that is not very clean. It is easy to let an office drift from clean to dirty without noticing; here are some factors working against you.
Who does the cleaning?
When I first opened my practice, cold, right out of school, I couldn't afford many extras. It was a very lean operation in a very small office! I did some of the cleaning myself and I had one employee who also understood that we were just a small start-up and she did some housekeeping as well. As the practice and the staff grew, I assigned the cleaning duties to all my employees. I reasoned that the staff was not always busy and they were getting paid anyway, so why not? I don't recall exactly when it dawned on me that my staff hated cleaning toilets and running the vacuum cleaner, but it wasn't too long. They thought of themselves as eye care professionals and the heavy cleaning should not be in their job description. Looking back on it, they were right. I noticed that the staff would often forget their cleaning duties and they didn't do a very thorough job. I also knew that a happy staff meant better attitudes. I hired a professional cleaning service; the office has been cleaner and the staff happier ever since.
There are a few aspects of cleaning that are still in the domain of my staff, but it is best to differentiate between heavy cleaning and touch-up cleaning. Except for small practices and start-ups, I recommend that a commercial service take care of the heavy cleaning. How often the service comes to your office depends on how busy and how large it is. Keep a close watch on the cleanliness and increase the service as needed.
I assign side jobs to all staff members and day-to-day cleaning can be included in those tasks. Here are some cleaning jobs that are better for staff to do:
Straighten up the reception room a few times each day. This includes returning magazines to the rack and picking up trash.
Clean up the coffee area.
Check patient washroom and tidy up as needed.
Empty wastebaskets at the end of the day and take out trash and boxes.
Inspect instruments, tables and exam areas; clean and dust as needed. Some instruments and mirrors require very specific cleaning methods; these items should be excluded from the cleaning service and managed by the optometric staff.
Clean mirrors and all surfaces in the optical dispensing area.
Staff members will accept their role in cleaning better if the heavy lifting is done by a janitorial crew.
What kind of job do they do?
In my experience, commercial janitorial services often decline in quality until the customer notices and complains. That means that you or your manager must inspect the work on a regular basis and let the cleaning crew know that you notice if quality drops. This takes a bit of effort because you may not always go in some areas of your office, like the waiting room or patient bathroom. If you were to go into your waiting room right now and wipe your hand along the baseboard in one of the far corners, would you come up with dust, dirt or maybe even cobwebs? Go try it; I'll wait.
Make a decision to earn a reputation for your practice as the cleanest professional office in town.
It is very important that bathrooms are extremely clean. Be sure the cleaning staff does a very thorough job by checking it the morning after they work. Bathrooms should also be attractive, well lit and fully stocked with supplies. Have staff members wipe up the sink a couple of times per day.
I generally think that cleaning the floors is the job of the janitorial service, but the entrance to the office and the front desk area can need attention more frequently, especially in inclement weather. Using the wet Swiffer mop is very easy and convenient and only takes a couple of minutes. Changing floor mats as they become soiled or wet is also part of the daily job in the winter. A well-charged Dustbuster vacuum is another must-have tool.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week