February 2, 2007

Top Three Office Design Trends of 2007

High-tech, hospitality and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) drive the evolution of future optical interiors according to top designer Barbara Wright, of Barbara Wright Design. Here are Barbara’s top three design trends for eye care interiors in the coming year.

• Computers Everywhere
The paperless office is now a reality for many practices. For a new practice it makes sense to go paperless right from the start. Designers locate computer outlets in every room whether they will be immediately put to use or not.

• Multiple Data Collection Rooms and Workup Areas
One Data Collection room is not enough, even for the smallest office. Practitioners feel pressured to increase productivity but don’t want to sacrifice quality patient care. Having staff perform more data collection allows the doctor more personal interaction with the patient. The ongoing proliferation of new and better data collection devices requires two, three or more separate rooms or nooks to prevent bottlenecks and keep patient flow running smoothly.

• Flat Screen Video Monitors
Video screens dot the future office landscape because they are such excellent tools for patient education, product and service promotion. Large plasma screens put the message across in waiting areas; smaller flat screens replace the “old school” eye chart projector in the exam room and add MTV-style flair to frame selection in the dispensary. Adding extra electrical outlets for every possible future video screen location is a must.

• Reception Counter
When patients step up to the latest reception counter designs they may feel like they are checking in to a fine hotel. Reception counters often have granite countertops and gleaming brass logo signage on the wall in back of the counter. The new style reception counter has no untidy piles of paperwork or messy file cabinets in sight to mar the mood.

• Coffee House/Bistro Corner
No need to stop at Starbucks before going to the eye doctor. There’s a coffee bar in the waiting area. Some practices take it a step further and provide bistro-style table, chairs and a copy of the daily newspaper to make waiting a pleasurable experience.

• Restaurant-style Restrooms
Plain old utilitarian restrooms aren’t good enough if you want to impress patients. Now restrooms are equal to those at your favorite fine dining establishment with colorful ceramic tile floor and walls, elegant lighting and sturdy built-in stainless steel paper towel/trash unit.

• Adventurous Color Schemes
Richer darker colors on walls, multi-colored art glass pendant lights, tapestry upholstered chairs and elegant patterned carpet are just a few of the elements designers borrow from the restaurant industry to create an indelible first impression. Earth tones have morphed into the new botanicals: deep olives, pale artichoke, sage greens and other hues drawn from plants and dried herbs.

• Patient Record Privacy
Records must be filed out of sight of patients in lockable file units or in a room with a locking door. Computer screens showing patient records must be positioned so the general public cannot see them. Designers must anticipate visitor sightlines during the floor plan design stage to prevent privacy problems.

• Confidentiality at Check Out Counters
Containing conversations at check out counters is important for patient privacy. Multiple check out counters are becoming the norm in order to prevent bottlenecks at the front desk. Building walls between counters, dropping the ceiling above and providing background music to mask conversations help provide confidentiality in the new offices of 2007.

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