Better flow for better patient care

Optometry Times Journal, February digital edition 2022, Volume 14, Issue 2

OD faces unknowns in quest to give an old practice a facelift

As I hit full stride into the year 2022 in my practice, it is hard to believe I am already planning some things for 2023. I liken a small business to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris: The scaffolding is always up; you just hope it’s on the back of the building when you visit. Truly, a small business is a living entity. At least it feels that way to me.

So what am I looking at changing when I climb up onto the virtual scaffolding of my practice? One important aspect of my practice that I’m really focused on is the flow. And by that I mean the physical fl ow of people throughout the building.

Back around the turn of the 20th century, our building was a theater. In the 1940s, it was turned into a bank. Now it’s an optometry practice. To say this building has stories in its walls is an understatement. It was built to last as well. A long hallway leading to the back door is lined on one side with a brick wall that is mostly black because it withstood the Augusta fire of 1916. I digress. Getting back to the flow of the building, there are too many narrow hallways and too many nooks and crannies.

It is easy to bump into someone, especially when things get busy. Now I won’t tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t have anything to do with my rethinking of how my office flows. I think we’re all less inclined to want to bump into another person, masked or not. I had this concept of changing the flow in my mind before the global pandemic, but the long pause caused me to table it for the time being.

Our ancillary testing room is positioned between our 2 exam rooms, and our fundus camera is in the room next door, which was my grandfather’s private office decades ago. Suffice it to say it’s going to take some significant construction to augment the flow of this office, and by that I mean 1 or 2 very old walls are going to have to come down.

It’s going to be messy, and it’s going to take time. However, I think things are about as normal as they’re going to get in our office for the foreseeable future. So we press on. It can be difficult to get started on big projects, and the biggest issue I’m looking at now is being able to see patients while this is going on.

What if there are unforeseen supply chain issues, and I’m left with gaping holes in my office for extended periods of time? What if the 100-plusyear- old poured-plaster walls have issues? With walls that old, you really have to get into them to fi gure out what you’re dealing with. However, if I’m going to optimize flow, I just have to do it. Better flow should translate into a better patient experience, and that is what I’m after.

I’ll keep you apprised as to how things are progressing with my grand office-flow improvement project, and I welcome stories from those who have experienced such in their practices.