If your practice is beginning to feel a little cramped, consider some of these quick solution.
By Richard S.
Space is becoming a huge problem in my practice. Do you have any ideas on how to better use and save space?
Dr. C. K. Taylor, Via e-mail
A: This is a common problem that my consulting clients frequently articulate. The main reasons these problems occur are as follows:
- The doctor is legally committed to a lease and can't expand.
- If the doctor owns the building, it's often impossible to expand because of tenant or land restrictions.
- The expense of expansion doesn't fit into the owner's budget.
Here are some possible solutions to consider:
- If you have 20-foot lane exam rooms, then consider re-designing all lanes to 10 feet by 10 feet and converting to mirror refraction.
- Combine the reception room and the optical department. Note: I'm not in favor of this choice unless you're located in a mall or a strip center.
- A total analysis of the entire physical plant to redistribute space and improve patient flow.
Take the following situation, which may help you to improve your own space problems.
ILLUSTRATION BY CAM WILSON
Facing a dilemma
Dr. G. Corey, M.D., called my company for consulting services. He, another ophthalmologist and an optometrist each own one third his practice. One of their major problems also had to do with space and they didn't want to move from their prime location.
The three doctors were unable to expand their existing location because of physical constraints of the land and the number of parking spaces that the township required.
Using a little creativity
Dr. Corey's practice included a 1,000-square-foot record room that contained 80,000 records. I introduced the doctors to the concept of electronic medical records
(EMR). They implemented this new computer program, which eliminated the need for their record room. By simply redistributing some non-baring walls, we added 1,000 square feet to the clinical area. The EMR system transformed the practice into a totally paperless office by taking over insurance claims electronically including medical and vision insurance. This increased productivity significantly because claims for
VSP-type of carriers are complicated and time consuming when done in the conventional manner.
After explaining the benefits of computer stations, we had Crowell Systems install the hardware and software in all of the exam rooms. They programmed each station so that a tech would enter an exam room at a doctor's request and input and complete all business matters, including payments, before escorting the patient to the payout area.
Dr. Corey and his partner agreed to place computer stations in the optical department, which saved them 500 more square feet in their retail area. The station enabled the opticians to complete all insurance and payment forms and transactions without going to a business desk. The software also included total inventory control.
Consider your options
As doctors and as business people, we must use our imagination and technology to keep our offices efficient, productive and profitable. And as sophisticated and great as this EMR is, there's always a learning curve when changing software programs. Much patience and focus is necessary to change your entire accounting, insurance and clinical software.
Dr. Kattouf is president and founder of two
management and consulting companies. For information, call (800) 745-EYES
or e-mail him at email@example.com.
The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.
Optometric Management, Issue: April 2003