December 30, 2006

Optometry and Dental Office Together?

From Ask The Expert:

Q. Have you ever built a joint optometry and dental office?

A.I have been involved in a number of projects where an optometrist and dentist are side by side. It seems to be a natural fit that works well for both practices. Last year I did a project for a husband and wife – he's an optometrist, she's a dentist. They purchased a building and put both their practices into it.

I did the interior design for the optometrist, another firm did the interior design for the dentist and we coordinated our design work on the shared entry and public restrooms. I think both clients got the best results by using designers who specialize in their respective fields.

A bit of wrestling went on between the two designers because both of us were fighting to get all the space we needed for each of our clients. It took quite a few revisions of the shared areas and the location of the demising wall separating the practices before we reached a solution that was satisfactory for both. The client's marriage survived the conflict in good shape because they let the designers duke it out (in a very professional manner, of course), rather than having husband and wife butt heads over design issues.

I've done other projects where an O.D. shares a waiting room with another type of practice. I think that some separation of the two practices is generally better than combining them. Business-wise, each practice needs separate accounting and office functions.

If you want to consider combining optometry and dentistry, you need to think through how everyday operations would work. Would patients (and possibly staff) get confused with two kinds of practices going on in the same space? You may want to talk with a practice management consultant before deciding what your best set up would be.

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