Are your current exam lanes crowded and even dysfunctional at times? Is your practice thinking about potential growth in the near future and you are not sure if your current space can efficiently handle an increase in personnel and equipment? Will your current clinic design be effective when you implement EMR? For an ophthalmology practice, one of the most crucial questions/concerns should be ‘is the current design of our medical space providing the best possible work-flow for our particular practice as well as providing opportunities for selling ancillary products and services?’
The first step in designing an effective medical office is to determine the needs of the practice. The owners will need to determine the current goals of the practice as well as its current operations. Realistic growth needs to be taken into consideration. A plan for future improvements must also be established.
Ophthalmology is a very instrumentation driven field. These instruments take up valuable space so they need to be strategically located so the work-flow of the staff and patients is not compromised. Most ophthalmologists add a new and/or additional piece of equipment to their clinics on an average of every 2-3 years, requiring them to continually be “re-working their space” to accommodate the growth.
Your practice may want to bring on additional providers in the future. Will your current space design and utilization allow for additional physician lanes, staff and instruments so the work-flow processes and staff efficiency remains at their optimum?
Type of Practice
No two ophthalmology practices are alike; they range from large multi-specialty to single provider, from urban to rural, from medical to surgical specialties. The services offered will determine the utilization of space. This should take into consideration the equipment and instruments used, types of services provided as well as the number of providers in the practice. If contact lenses and/or optical services are offered, additional space and staff is required.
When determining new office space needs, an assessment of the practice is critical. Patient volume and associated data from the past 1-3 years must be analyzed. Several factors that are important to determine are: each provider’s practice pattern; average amount of time each provider spends per patient encounter; the average tests performed on each patient type; the number of times the provider is with each patient during a single visit; the number of clinical staff and their function/responsibilities.
Some ophthalmology practices will utilize the services of a design firm. Since ophthalmology has a very different work-flow pattern than any other medical specialty, it is best to contract with someone who has designed and constructed various types of ophthalmology practices. A knowledgeable ophthalmic office designer will know the correct size for specific lanes and how to best meet equipment requirements. If possible, exam lanes should be across from one another to decrease the steps taken by clinical staff and ophthalmologists. If space allows, it is optimal that each provider has his/her own pod in which to work. This helps in controlling hallway chaos from provider, staff and patient movements. It’s important to have enough exam lanes and testing rooms to keep patients moving smoothly and at an optimal pace so efficiency is maintained.
The size of the waiting room should be determined by the number of patients the practice serves in any given time period. The average age of your patients should also be taken into consideration as children and seniors tend to have more family members with them at their appointments. Space availability must also be considered for a call center, medical records department if the practice does not utilize EMR, and a business office and front desk that can handle an appropriate number of staff. Provider, administrative and marketing offices and a meeting room are also considerations.
An optical dispensary needs to be placed in a high-traffic area – a location where patients can focus on viewing the eye wear. This space is usually located adjacent to the main waiting/reception area.