Office Makeover on the Cheap

May 24, 2011
Judy Capko

A pleasant office décor is easier to achieve than you think.

I've visited more than a few medical offices that look a bit worn and out of date. Dated window treatments, silk flowers, and French-country décor can make a practice look like it is stuck in the past. It doesn't leave a positive impression on patients and often sends conflicting impressions. You want your practice to be known as cutting edge - a place where the quality of care is great and the physicians are reported to be among the best in your community. Even if referring physicians don't see your practice, patients do, and you can bet they will tell their friends and family about your wilted waiting room.

What can you do? Look at your office space through the eyes of your patients. Start by taking a critical walk room to room. Examine the walls, flooring, window treatments, furniture, accessories, and lighting. Are the countertops neat? Is your equipment up to date and well maintained? If you don't like what you see, do something about it!

I know that most practices are operating on a tight budget these days; however, it doesn't cost a fortune to make small, but significant changes that will make a big impression on patients.

Start with housekeeping. Throw out clutter, clear desktops of unnecessary items, get the taped-up notices and reminders off the walls, remove sticky notes, and relocate unsightly electrical cords. Organize the storage cabinet and throw out things that are not in working order and items you never use.

Get a new color scheme. A friend once told me "paint makes it what it ain't!" He's right. A fresh coat of paint with a modern color scheme will give your practice a fresh look at a minimal price. Your patients will take notice and appreciate your efforts.

Steam clean the furniture, drapes, and flooring. It won't cost much, but will be a good return on your investment. If the fabrics and flooring designs are completely out of date, you may have to make a bigger investment. For good furniture it may be worth re-upholstering instead of replacing. After all, you don't have to pick out the most expensive fabric. Windows can be updated with relatively inexpensive pleated blinds.

Change your lighting. You might want to consider investing in more contemporary lighting. Canned lighting, sconces, and light switches with dimmers give a clean, bright appearance, but can be adapted to provide softer lighting that is still suitable for reading.

Update reading materials. Make sure your reading materials cover a broad range of interests specific to your patient base, and remove magazines that are tattered or more than six months old. Add attractive, wall-mounted magazine racks and you are on your way to a new, brighter look.

A good rule of thumb for keeping your office up to date is:

• A thorough cleaning once a year;
• New paint every five years; and
• A practice makeover every 10 years.

One of the best ways to do this on the cheap is to stick with basic colors, fabrics, and designs that are timeless instead of selecting something trendy. Then you can freshen up your practice by trading out accessories such as wall décor, lamps, desktop accessories, and window treatments and you won't be breaking the bank.

Your reception room should always look sharp and up to date - giving the feeling of a comfortable room in your home - with nice lighting, good reading materials, and a sense of friendliness.

Get on board and spruce up your office. If you don't, your image is likely to become tarnished and your patients just might see you and your practice as old and out of sync.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant and author of the popular books "Secrets of the Best Run Practices" and "Take Back Time." Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., she is a national speaker on healthcare topics. She can be reached at judy@capko.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Physicians Practice.