December 12, 2008

Taking an Optical Floor Plan from Good to Great

How can you tell if the floor plan for your new optical or optometric office is good enough? Learn some of the strategies and tactics that we at Barbara Wright Design employ to turn an ordinary optical floor plan into an extraordinary productivity builder.

Optical Floor Plan Case Study 1

Project: New Building in Joplin, MO
Size: 4,841 SF
Exam Rooms: 4

Patients are mostly blue-collar with insurance, median income $49,000. The practice
also has some higher income patients but is not selling many high-end frames.
Lorry Lazenby, O.D. began designing a new optometric building with his architect. He thought the general plan was good but was concerned that he might have missed some things. He was not satisfied with the optical layout. Barbara Wright Design was called in to design the optical and consult on possible improvements to the overall floor plan.

The practice is very busy and needs to move a high volume of patients through the office without making them feel they are on an assembly line. The optical also needs to handle a high volume of patients and prevent the bottlenecks and back-ups experienced in the existing office. The practice is missing out on high-end frame sales due to lack of proper presentation.

The “Before” Plan Analysis
As a patient enters he is presented with the sharp corner of the reception desk. The wall behind the reception desk where the practice logo should go is angled away from the entrance and can’t be seen well by entering patients.

The restroom door is directly visible from waiting making it uncomfortable for patients. In addition the coat rack and coffee area are located right by the rest room door, a potential bottleneck if all three are being used at the same time. The hallway between the central core and waiting area is wider than necessary resulting in wasted space.

The general strategy of a “racetrack” layout for circular patient flow in an optometry floor plan is good. However, this layout causes patients to traipse the entire length of the space to get to the exam rooms. Then they return to the front via another equally long hallway, wasting precious minutes of time for both staff and patients.

In the optical there is inadequate circulation space between one of the dispensing tables and the corner of the reception counter. A storage closet is placed on a wall that would be better used for more frame displays. The optical is too small for this very busy office. There are no separate delivery tables or workstations for the opticians.

The Challenge
The two major challenges were to create a functional optical and to improve the clinic area layout so patients could move more efficiently from data collection to exam to optical.

The “After” Plan Solution
The reception counter faces the entrance and has a back wall for the practice logo, creating a more welcoming and very professional first impression on patients. The restroom door is accessed from the hallway, which has been narrowed so there is no more wasted space.

The “racetrack” is now a “dumbbell shape” with all staff rooms off a private back hallway. The patient path is considerably shorter. The two data collection rooms in the central core have dual openings into both hallways to funnel patients efficiently to all exam rooms with the fewest steps.

The optical has been enlarged to display 750 frames and has a locked showcase for high-end frames. The opticians have their own office with windows to view the entire optical along with walk-in storage and workroom for completed orders. There is a separate delivery table with a small hidden adjustment counter minimizing trips into the main lab.

The file cabinets are integrated into the business office. As the practice gradually goes paperless Dr. Lazenby can remove file cabinets and add more work counters along these walls as needed.

Switching the general layout strategy from racetrack to dumbbell greatly increases the efficiency of this office and separates the staff area from the public area. Increasing the size of the optical and providing designated space for different activities makes opticians more productive and patients more comfortable and less hurried. Providing a special high fashion display section showcases high-end frames to higher income patients without alienating the middle-income patients that are the backbone of the practice.

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