Office Environment

Reconfigure Your Office, Maximize Patient Flow

By Thomas Wong, OD

Minor adjustments to the layout of your office can improve work flowand booststaff efficiency.

Assess Layout Weaknesses
Keep things simple. First, look carefully at your office design and patient flow.Are the exam rooms and most utilized equipment easily accessible to you and your technicians?Do you and your techs have to walk back and forth unnecessarily? Is there adequate room for patients and staff? Are there bottlenecks in your office creating gridlock? Are there any privacy concerns you need to address? I would recommend having a staff member sit, observe and chart-out patient flow and foot traffic in your office. If you survey and interview patients in your office, they will give you valuable information. Redesign your office to give everyone more space and reduce clutter. Give your staff specific goals.A great goal is to save 10 minutes for every hour of patient care by maximizing your patient flow.An hour saved during your workday, can be used to greatly improve the patient experience, see emergencies, etc.

Take Account
of Your Space

Thomas Wong, OD
Washington, DC area

Office space:
1,200 Sq. Ft.

Exam Lanes
4

CL Room
1 with multiple tables

Results
We saved 3 minutes in pretesting and exam process, allowing us to spend up to 15 minutes per patient, if necessary.

Listen to your patients
Give patients a brief (few minutes) survey to fill out during office visit, and ask how convenient and comfortable they found the office.

Pretesting Equipment, Upfront and Center
Work flow improvements begin by thinking about how to make the patient experience more convenient and comfortable. At our office, the first step to improving the patient experience was moving pretesting equipment to a central location, near the reception area. This central location means the patient can get to this next step after filling out paperwork in the reception area with ease. It also means technicians aren’t running down hallways or rounding multiple corners to conduct prescreening tests. Placing this equipment out in the open places the majority of staff in the same place asthe majority of patients. The centralized placement also makes it easier for staff to keep track of patient flow. Theassistant at the front desk, for instance, can easily see if one of the patients has begun pretesting, and technicians can observeif there is a backlog in the reception area waiting to begin the exam process.

Coordinate Waiting Area and Optical
Your waiting area should be in the same location, or just adjacent to, your optical. It also helps to be near the patient dilation waiting area.The idea is while the patient is waiting to start pretesting, or waiting for the dilation to take effect, they can browse your optical. That 15 or 20 minutes prior to the dilation taking effect is prime time for patients to see what you have to offer, and for your staff to start a conversation withpatients prior to your exam relating to their eyewear needs, lens options, etc. If staff notices a patient looking intently at aspecific style of frames, they can make a note of it, and continue where they left off after the patient is finished with their exam.

Contact Lens Room Adjacent to Exam Room
The room where patients try on contact lenses, and where boxes of contact lenses and contact lenses supplies are kept, should not be far from your exam room. You don’t want staffers running down the hall every time a patient needs a lens to try on. You also don’t want the patient to have to go far during the eye exam to insert or remove their lenses, or after the exam when, say, they are excited to try on contact lenses for the first time. You don’t want to blunt that excitement with a lot of hassle and inconvenience. It also is ideal to have multiple tables and sinks in the contact lenses room, so there is no wait. Both for the sake of patient convenience, as well as hygiene, it is good if those trying on contact lenses have a little space to spread out instead of waiting in line for the use of one table and one sink.

Better Layout = More Time with Patients
If you make the effort to lay out your office with efficiency in mind, you save time for yourself, your staff and your patients. In our office, which is 1,200 square feet with four exam lanes and one contact lens room (with multiple tables), we were able to save enough time in the patient experience to allow me to spend up to 15 minutes with each patient if necessary, or to add up to three additional patients to my daily schedule.

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Thomas A. Wong, O.D., has been practicing Optometry in the Washington, D.C. area including Maryland, and Northern Virginia for over twenty years. Dr. Wong is a graduate of Georgetown University and the SUNY State College of Optometry. He has been the President of the Optometric Society of Washington, D.C., and the Maryland Optometric Association. He is active in several national and local organizations including the Georgetown University Board of Governors. To contact him: gu82tawong@gmail.com.

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