Unveiling the Secrets to Successful Practice
redesign becomes a transformation for this Kentucky practice.
BY JIM THOMAS
For the redesign, Dr. Fife chose most of
the furniture and artwork herself.
Twenty years ago, Sally Fife, O.D., opened her
first practice in Henderson, a town located on the banks of the Ohio River in the
western part of Kentucky. Henderson is known for its John James Audubon Museum,
historic walking tours (during tobacco's heyday, Henderson was the richest town
per capita in the United States), outdoor sports and the annual W.C. Handy Blues
& Barbecue festival.
Fife describes her original 2,200-square-foot office as "quaint." A residential
home built in the 1920's, the office included two lanes and a contact lens/dispensary
But the old-fashioned appearance of the office's exterior was
deceptive. Dr. Fife's practice grew from its earliest years. In a sportsmen's paradise,
the practice became known as the place to purchase prescription Oakley eyewear.
Sixteen years ago, Dr. Fife incorporated a low vision specialty into the practice.
The staff's dedication to patient care ensured that the general optometric practice
would continue to grow through a combination of loyal patients and referrals.
Success led to a practice "that was bursting at the seams," recalls
Dr. Fife. Patients who preferred prime office times often had to schedule appointments
six to eight weeks in advance. While the low vision specialty attracted more elderly
patients, the office lacked wheel chair accessibility. The practice "was too small
to adequately take care of the needs of our patients," says Dr. Fife.
"It was evident another O.D. was needed," she continues. "An office
remodel and expansion was necessary to accommodate another doctor and to allow for
time to invest
The new office
includes Tuscany-style stucco walls, a wrought iron staircase, wood floors and unique
In 2002, Dr. Fife invested $500,000 in an expansion. The office
increased in size from 2,200 sq. ft. to 6,000 sq. ft. "We were able to accommodate
six exam lanes, large contact lens training and dispensing areas, appropriate rooms
for visual fields and pre-testing," says Dr. Fife. A second O.D. and part time ophthalmologist
now allow patients greater access to specialized care as well as a shorter waiting
time for appointments.
The dispensary itself grew to nearly three times its original
size, allowing the practice to display a wider variety of frame and sunglass selections.
An in-office computer allows patients to search for eyewear online.
While the additional space was critical, the redesign has given
Dr. Fife's practice something more: a new identity. The interior design with Tuscany-style
stucco walls, wrought iron staircases, wood floors and unique lighting fixtures
were all part of Dr. Fife's interior design vision. She chose most of the furniture
and artwork herself.
From a management standpoint, the results of the redesign were
significant. Total revenues grew from approximately $600,000 in 2002 to $1 million
in 2006. Prior to the remodel, the practice saw over 6,000 patients, averaging 26
per day in 2002. In 2006, the practice will see 8,300 plus patients, or an average
of 33 per day.
With the redesign, Dr.
Fife doubled the area of her practice's dispensary.
"By far, the greatest benefit has been the improvements for handicapped
patients," says Dr. Fife. Patients in wheelchairs are welcomed with wider hallways,
and wheel chair accessible ramps. "We added wheel chair accessible equipment in
pre-testing and a new exam room to provide easier access for those patients who
are unable to be moved to the exam chair," says Dr. Fife.
The practice now sees three or four additional low vision patients
The optical has improved significantly. "We now have more space
to accommodate the large display cases that Oakley and other frame companies provide,"
says Dr. Fife. With the remodel, the number of dispensing areas increased from two
to four. Dr. Fife estimates that dispensary sales have grown 25% to 35% since the
The staff now includes one full-time optometrist (Dr. Fife), a
part-time O.D. (Dr. Charles Heck) who practices two days a week, two employees at
the reception/collection areas, one in insurance, two dispensing opticians, one
lab optician and three optometric assistants. A local ophthalmologist brings his
own staff and sees patients on Friday afternoons.
"Our qualified staff's patient care combined with the office redesign
have created marketing opportunities," she says. The office has been named "Best Optometric Practice" in the Henderson
area for the past four years.
The office has become a local attraction. People stop by to take
pictures and patients bring friends to tour the French Country interior decor. It
has also bolstered civic pride. "The invest- ment shows a great deal of optimism
for the future growth of our city," says Dr. Fife.
"Nothing but positive outcomes have resulted from the redesign
project," says Dr. Fife. "Patient satisfaction and appreciation have been most
rewarding. Employee morale is high, as we are able to offer a beautiful office setting
in which patients receive the highest quality eye care."
Optometric Management, Issue: December 2006