How Can You Redesign Your Office to Better Utilize Space?
July 27, 2016
There are many factors in our profession that we can’t control, so I tend to focus on the things I can change that will provide a good return on investment. One of the best ways to increase profitability in your practice is to see more patients per day. In many cases, an additional exam room or pretest area can help you do that. Seeing patients more efficiently reduces wait times and improves the patient experience. We also know that the less time patients spend on the clinic side, the more time they will spend on our optical side.
Use this article as a guide to help you look at your office space and see if some minor construction changes could help you to be more efficient. In most cases, your office space is fixed and limited, so if you find some space to devote to a new purpose, you must take it away from something else. There will usually be some aspect of the change you don’t like, but the point is to decide if the new functionality will be more valuable than the old.
What do you need?
Begin your analysis by considering what additional rooms your practice needs most. Another exam room would be at the top of my list if you only have one. Ideally, each working doctor should have at least two exam rooms. I think 9 feet wide by 12 feet long is a good size for a full refracting lane, although I converted a 6 X 10 space into a nice exam room with room for a tech and a visitor chair.
Think about where the bottlenecks to patient flow are usually located in your daily operations. It may be at the pretest room and that is often because there are too many instruments in there. It can take a long time to do all those tests and that ties up the room. If you can create a new special purpose room, for the retinal camera, OCT or corneal topographer, another technician could access that device and not have to wait.
Walk through your office and ask yourself these questions about each room or section: Is this space helping to improve productivity or is it just nice to have? How often is this space utilized?
Review this list of rooms that often can be repurposed or divided into multiple sections.
Contact lens training rooms. I think these rooms are outdated, but they are still extremely common in optometric floor plans. Insertion and removal training can occur in many different places and does not need a dedicated room any more. However, these rooms often serve as the place to store a huge inventory of diagnostic lenses as well and I admit those must go someplace. The room may also be used as a work space for technicians, which is also important. But if the lenses can be moved to another space near the exam rooms, maybe an open wide hallway, then the CL dispensing room could become an exam room.
Storage rooms or large closets. We all need storage, but it does not produce revenue. Consider throwing out a lot of old junk or moving it to a nearby rental storage unit.
Any room that is larger than it needs to be. This could be a waiting area, private office, lab or any other space. A carpenter can build a new partition wall and make it butt up against the existing ceiling and now you have two rooms.
Vacant space adjacent to your office. If you have unused or unfinished space in your office or even in a rental unit next door, you could remodel it for your use. You can usually break through from one rental unit to another and create a new hallway so they are connected. It may be smart to snap up the additional office space while it is available. At least you would not have to move.
Basement or second floor space. Spaces that are not on the ground floor are not ideal for patient care, but they could allow you to move administrative offices, optical lab, a call center, and insurance coordinator’s space and many other functions. If this creates more space on the ground level, you can convert that to a new purpose.
Space for files. With electronic medical records, you may be able to free up some space that holds paper records. Consider scanning in the old charts or move them to your off-site storage unit.
I do not recommend taking space away from optical in most cases. Most optometric offices need a larger optical.
Here are a few things to remember as you plan your new space. The decisions are up to you, but talk to your contractor about the items you need.
Will you need a new heating and air conditioning vent in this space? Probably yes, unless the new area is open most of the time. A small fan can help you get by.
Will you need a sink? Some offices just use hand sanitizer pumps.
Is the lighting adequate and where is the light switch? If the room needs to be dim for testing, a desk lamp could be enough.
Will you need a door for privacy or to control sound and stray light? I like it completely dark for retinal photos.
What will the floor look like when you are done? Do you have any spare carpet remnants or extra floor tiles?