Article Date: 2/1/2003

practice profile
Tackling Renovation
Outside help turned this doctor's awkward space into a free-flowing, attractive office.
BY RENÉ LUTHE, Senior Associate Editor

Dr. Fred Arima's office space presented him with a problem: It burdened his practice with a cramped, uncomfortable feeling. Patient traffic flow in the dispensary was especially troublesome. "If two couples were selecting frames at the same time the dispensary would feel crowded," Dr. Arima reported.

Another problem with the dispensary, according to Dr. Arima, was that it didn't look contemporary. "It only had standard frame bars mounted on the walls and two rotating floor displays. The lighting wasn't adequate to see the frames," he explained.

Finding the right renovators

Dr. Arima knew that he needed to update his practice's appearance. He wanted a look that was modern but not trendy, and most of all he wanted a design that would facilitate patient traffic flow throughout the office.

Recommendations from other optometrists and his medical building management service led him to Ennco Display Systems, a manufacturer of frame displays. For the design, he chose Barbara Wright of Barbara Wright Designs. She designed the cabinets, shelves and dispensary, and specified the materials. "Barbara's experience in ophthalmic office design was obvious" Arima said. "She knew exactly what I wanted."

Turning challenge into charm

Ms. Wright said that the project was a challenge because of the unusual shape of Dr. Arima's building. He'd expanded into an adjacent space but the result was an office that, according to Ms. Wright, "wasn't a nice rectangular shape." But with some hard work and planning, she turned that into an advantage.

"We arranged the office so that when people entered it, they'd see the dispensary right in front of them," explained Ms. Wright. "The entrance to Dr. Arima's office is off to the side, so all patients walk through the dispensary to get to the exam and pretest areas. That part of the office has a circular flow, so patients must come back through the dispensary." All staff areas were adjacent to each other so that staff could move efficiently.

The experience that Ennco brought to the project was also important.

"We were able to interface with the doctor based on our industry knowledge rather than just trying to interpret the designer's plans," company President Jan Ennis said. "We spent a great deal of time with the client to make sure that the plans indicated what he really wanted, especially in terms of flow and function for the individualized custom store fixtures."

Problems solved

The renovation took seven months, but Dr. Arima feels the results were well worth the time. Ms. Wright and Ennco successfully addressed his complaints.

"I can now comfortably see four more patients each day. Dispensary revenue is up 12% now that we have more frames to display and the space to perform on-site edging," said Dr. Arima. "Our new dispensary even has enough lighting now to highlight frame displays."

Benefiting everyone

Ms. Wright's design extended to desktops, providing more space and depth to accommodate computer monitors. Keyboard trays were another space-saving feature. The new tech station offers storage for portable equipment and supplies and a staff lunch room is a benefit that also fosters a sense of camaraderie.

Thoughts to take with you

Dr. Arima's experience taught him two things:

1. Chose designers who are experienced in the ophthalmic practice field

2. Your office can never have enough electrical outlets!

Optometric Management, Issue: February 2003