Office Environment

Evaluate Your Office Environment from Your Patient’s Perspective

By Stuart J. Thomas, OD,
and Ellen Byrum-Goad, LDO

Feb. 3, 2016

A worn out rug, peeling paint and uncomfortable furniture is not the way you want to greet your new and returning patients. In our practice, we regularly review and experience–from our patients’ perspective–our office environment. Making small changes as the need arises, rather than waiting for the whole office to appear rundown, is key to keeping our office comfortable and welcoming.

Assess Needs

We have made many office improvements recently. We installed a new floor in our employee break room, deep-cleaned the office (blinds, window treatments, windows, window frames, baseboards, carpets, everything!). We took down from the side of our business outdated signage and trimmed back foliage that has crept higher than the bottom of our main signage. New entry carpets (branded with our logo), ordered slightly larger than the old carpets, were just put down.

Outside window casings were cleaned and the lights that frame the front door were cleaned inside and out! We also painted two pre-testing rooms, three exam rooms, break room and inner business office.

We recently had a problem with our the break room floor. Improper linoleum replacement had caused a crack to happen. The glue would dampen and spread every time the floor was mopped. We could not figure out the issue – it would sound as if a soda had not been cleaned up properly – you would literally stick to the floor. When the problem was realized, we had one of the local flooring companies come out and measure the area. After hours we met with the saleslady who recommended two products and gave us the cost. Three weeks later, on a day when Dr. Thomas was out of the office, the new flooring was laid. The patient experience is never compromised while the repairs are taking place if we can avoid it.
Regardless of how well you plan, you will still have repair emergencies. It took 18 months to design and build out our new office during 2008-2009. We thought everything was ready to go, but on our very first day, something happened to completely stop up the plumbing, resulting in no functioning toilets in the office. Plastic was rolled out to protect the carpets, Roto-Rooter was called, and about four hours into our business day, we could finally flush.

The optical in Dr. Thomas’s and Byrum-Goad’s practice. They recommend making a yearly evaluation of the office’s physical environmental needs–from the patients’ perspective.

See Your Office From Your Patients’ Perspective

Each year we walk the perimeter of both our outside and inside areas, and we challenge ourselves to get out of our heads and view it from a total patient perspective. This year: some $240 will be spent on removal of signage. New rugs for front and back door cost $240 total. Painting the rooms will cost us $1,100.

Once a quarter we challenge ourselves and employees to sit where you normally don’t and ask ourselves: What do I see, hear and smell? Does the lab look cluttered and unorganized from the patient perspective? Are there dust bunnies at the bottom of the towers in the exam rooms? Are the signs and pictures hanging straight? Does the carpet in patient areas look faded or frayed? How is the paint? Are the baseboards clean or dusty? How about the fronts of the cabinets? When was the last time someone washed them down?

Survey Patients About Your Office Environment

In our Demandforce reviews we question the patient to review us on cleanliness. Fortunately, we are consistently given the highest ranking (5). Many times a patient will talk about the welcoming environment – I believe that this speaks well of the employees, as well as the physical space.

Determine How to Pay

We are blessed now to be able to afford to do everything we need to do, and most of what we want. But back in our practice’s early days, we searched for the best financing offers when new furniture or work needed to be done in our office.

Train Employees to Maintain Office

We had to put a few office maintenance chores on employees’ task sheets because they were being overlooked. For instance, we noticed that we needed to be flipping the chair cushions once a week to even the wear, refilling all of the Dial soap dispensers (happens every Wednesday), making sure that there are always three rolls of toilet paper on our bathroom shelf (with the seams turned toward the wall, of course!). The biggest result here is that we are each paying attention to the cleanliness of our bathrooms each time we use them. They are always well stocked and neat for our patients.

Keep Patient Experience Smooth During Repairs–No Matter What Happens

We schedule everything when we are not seeing patients. Dr. Thomas works 4.5 days, taking Friday afternoon off. If he goes out of town, or on that half-day, we schedule the cleaning and organizing events so that patient care and experience is never compromised. We all have taken turns letting a carpet cleaning company arrive at 8 am on a Saturday morning!

Stuart J. Thomas, OD, is the owner of Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga. Contact: StuTh2@vsp.com

Ellen Byrum-Goad, LDO, is practice manager. To contact: Ellen.Goad@thomaseyecenter.com

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