By Samantha Hornberger, OD
Feb. 15, 2023
It’s hard to expand your patient base and services without the proper space and accommodations. With that in mind, our practice decided that it was time for an office expansion that would allow us to better care for our patients, adding daily exam slots, greater dry eye services and providing more room for product selection and shopping in the optical.
Here is what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what these changes will do for our patients and profitability.
A Larger, Owned Space
When we first opened our office as a cold start in fall 2013, my focus was keeping my occupancy costs low. I knew that was key to achieving profitability for a new practice, and that doing so would allow me to invest in technology. After eight years, and with two years left on my current lease, I decided to start looking for a larger space that I could own versus lease. So, when an opportunity presented itself to purchase a building only three miles from my existing location, we jumped on it. We are currently renovating this new space.
By moving our practice, we are getting an additional three exam lanes, a dry eye treatment/consult space, a much larger optical space and more room for the larger staff we need to hire to accommodate our growth.
I currently work out of two exam lanes, and there are times when that creates a choke point, especially when we also have a small optical and little-to-no reception area for patients to wait.
Improving Technology in New Exam Rooms
The biggest expense for our new exam rooms is lane equipment. I decided to upgrade our exam lanes, so they will have digital refraction systems, the TRS 6100 from Marco, in all three.
This is the only area of our exam experience that hasn’t had an upgrade in technology in a while. Our patients have come to expect all the bells and whistles technology-wise in our practice. There will be a wow factor for patients when they see this upgrade.
Because of the flow of information from auto-refractor to EHR to digital phoropter, and back, the refraction process will be more efficient, allowing us to spend that time educating on lens options. The ability to show patients the change in vision with a new prescription at the touch of a button will also help us increase our optical capture rate.
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Providing Enhanced Dry Eye Services
We will add a spa treatment chair for about $2,000 to the space, as well as some other small things like stainless trays and other decor accents. The biggest expense here is treatment equipment. We already have the Marco Equinox LLLT unit, but will be adding a Lumenis OptiLight IPL as well.
The patient experience will be significantly improved as the dry eye space allows for more of a spa experience with its own restroom for preparation like makeup removal and its own reception area for scheduling and check in/out.
Having a dedicated space will allow me to see dry eye patients while an associate sees routine eyecare patients in the clinical lanes. I expect that our friends and family referrals will increase due to the enhanced patient experience of those receiving dry eye treatments in our new spa.
Creating a Bigger Optical: More Space & Ease for Shopping
We will be able to increase the size of our optical 2-3 times. We have a very small optical now that is difficult to maneuver when we have more than 1-2 patients shopping.
A more relaxing environment for customers/patients, along with a more visible optical because of the large street facing our windows, will create a higher-quality retail experience.
When we did a small cosmetic remodel of our current optical in late 2019, there was a great response from patients. There was a definite boost in optical revenue just from that small update. I expect the same–and more– from our new optical space.
Create a Better Work Environment for Staff
With only 1,400 square feet in our current office, and most of that dedicated to patient care, our staff has no conference room or lunch area.
The new office will have a dedicated staff break room and conference area.
Indirectly this space will also benefit patients because we will have the space for lunch-and-learn trainings for staff. During these trainings we will educate on different topics, and that knowledge will, in turn, enhance patient care.
Happy staff, happy business! And less staff turnover means less money spent on recruiting and hiring.
I also expect an increase in patient acceptance of premium services when the entire staff is educated and well versed in those offers.
What All These Improvements Mean to Our Bottom Line
Once I hire additional staff, we will probably add another 2-3 patients per day for a single doctor. It also gives me the option of having days with two doctors.
The update in 2019 was cosmetic mainly with a small layout change in the optical only, new paint and repositioning the front desk. It’s difficult to give hard numbers for the increase in revenue because it was immediately followed by 2020 with its three-month COVID shutdown, but patients were excited about the changes and, anecdotally, we noticed better a capture rate.
I grew 25 percent in 2022, and am projecting another 25 percent growth in 2023 because of the move and the many positive changes we can make because of it.