By Gordon G. Wong, OD
Unique areas in your officedistinguish your practice. Provide the kind of experience that will get patients talking to their friends and family about your practice.
CREATE UNIQUE NOOKS. Create areasthat epitomize your branding. For example, to emphasize a peaceful environment, create a “Zen” waiting room.
SET THE TONE. Train staff to behave in a way that reinforces the tone. If you strive for a peaceful brand, keep challenging business calls behind closed doors.
CONNECT TO OVERALL DESIGN. Connect your nook to a larger design concept in the office. An Asian-inspired room belongs in an Asian-inspired office.
My office in La Jolla, Calif., is designed with a certain kind of patient in mind–one who values meditative peace in a hectic life. To create an office suited to these patients, I designed a “Zen waiting room,” an open courtyard situated outside, between the street, sidewalk, optical, reception area, exam rooms and contact lens areas.
The outdoor “Zen” waiting area in Dr. Wong’s new office.
Create Unique Nooks
Our reception area has four chairs in it that some patients elect to sit in, but from those chairs you can hear the staff answer the phone, patients asking about how their insurance works and all the others things that go on in the front desk area.
By contrast, our waiting area has a fountain in the middle of it surrounded by dark brown wooden benches with colorful silk pillows. There is also a ceramic Buddha head sitting in a small sandbox with bamboo grass lining it. It is about 20 x 30 feet. We have speakers installed throughout the office so when you are sitting in our courtyard you most likely hear the sound of the water fountain and soft rock music.
The courtyard is 90 percent done. We plan to add decorative silk squares strung across the top of the courtyard to shield patients from direct sunlight and birds. I would like to add six to eight more pillows, a table and three banners of different colors, each with a different message like peace, love or joy.
I really hate having patients wait for me, so the longest they get to enjoy the courtyard is five to 10 minutes, but sometimes there are patients waiting for other family members and they get to enjoy the courtyard for longer.
I would advise doctors to strive to minimize the time patients have to wait, but if they are going to wait at all, try to make the experience less negative. You can do that by creating a space where patients can wait in peace without having to listen to a constantly ringing phone and chatter from staff.
Set the Tone
I want patients to feel they’re getting spa-like customer service. I also want patients to clearly see that we are totally different from other eye doctor offices. Additionally, I want to insulate the patient from having to hear the phone getting answered or patients expressing their frustration with how their insurance works and other aggravations.
To complement our Zen design, I created “on-stage” rules for employees to follow which help maintain the practice brand so as not to expose the patient to “off-stage” conversations or actions. That means discussing issues like insurance provider disputes and challenges with vendors in closed-door rooms away from the optical dispensary or waiting area, or other areas where patients can overhear.
The Chinese dragons behind Dr. Wong in this photo tie into the overall Asian design theme in the office.
Connect to Overall Office Design
I have always tended toward Asian motifs and décor. My inspirations come from the P.F. Chang restaurants, Roppongi Asian Fusion Restaurant in La Jolla and the Hotel Parisi, also in La Jolla. In a previous office, I tried to utilize the expertise of one of the industry’s leading architect firms, but I found that they just didn’t understand my vision. My contractor and his interior decorator wife had built many bars and restaurants with similar motifs in San Francisco, so their experience helped transform these ideas into reality.
In addition to the Zen waiting area, we have two sets of blue colored Foo dog Chinese statues that contribute to the Asian motif/décor. There also are 3-4 inch wide bamboo poles which hide data, electrical and speaker wires. And there is a bamboo sink in the contact lens area and several Chinese brush paintings throughout the office.
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