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Last week’s tip focused on the advantages of owning your own building and making the office impressive.
I’ll continue that theme with some ideas to consider when designing an office. Having seen many optometric
offices in my career and designing several for my own use, here are a few design tips that I think make an
The big picture
A large optical area is important. This idea is not real popular because most ODs really like clinical
work much better, and they want to emphasize the exam areas. There are so many wonderful diagnostic instruments
available today, and the efficiency of multiple exam rooms is undisputed, so the tendency to devote space to
clinic is understandable. But resist it and make the optical bigger, if revenue is of interest to you. The
competition for the eyeglass sale is growing increasingly fierce, and private doctors must offer an obvious
reason for patients to stay put with their Rx. Optical dispensing is important to the most important person
in the office: the patient. And optical produces about 50% of gross revenue in the average optometric practice.
That revenue is achieved without the doctor, so don’t pass it up.
If you really want a lot space for exam rooms, try to make the whole office facility larger than the usual
1500 to 3000 square feet. I would like to see the optical area at least 1000 square feet.
I prefer to see a real waiting area when you walk in the front door – not an optical shop. But I think it’s
ideal if the patient can see the optical from the reception area.
Two entrances (one for the clinic and one for the optical) have some real advantages, but they both must be
staffed at all times.
A parking lot that is larger than you need is a must.
A large illuminated sign with your practice name and logo is a sound investment.
Details to consider
Have at least four exam rooms. I find 10 by 12 or 9 by 14 feet to be good sizes.
Include several pretest and special testing rooms. How these rooms are used may change over time. Very small
rooms for a single instrument, like threshold visual fields, make sense. Placing a retinal camera and corneal
topographer together works well.
The doctors and the office manager need private offices. You aren’t just seeing patients; you’re running a
business. It will be much more successful if you take that part seriously.
Include a technician station near the clinical area, but with some privacy for placing orders, calling patients,
and doing the administrative work of patient care. It could be coupled with the contact lens and pharmaceutical
A dedicated room for contact lens dispensing seems outdated to me. Most offices could better use the space for
File rooms are less important because the future is with electronic medical records. Still some file space is
needed for business records.
Inner waiting or dilation rooms can be a fine idea – but a larger general reception area may be more comfortable
and more impressive. Many patients are taken to the optical while dilating anyway. A widened hallway or alcove with
chairs is smart so patients can be held for a few minutes while waiting for a busy room to open up.
Include an on-site optical lab. Plan enough space for surfacing and finishing.
More storage space is always needed. I’d design a basement or second story for storage if suitable in your area.
A staff lounge is not a luxury. They are great for lunches, breaks, staff meetings and conferences. Including one
helps staff morale and retention.
Keep in mind that these tips are aimed at designing the ultimate office, which may not be financially possible in the
early stages of practice. But visualizing the ultimate goal is one of the keys to making it a reality.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.