Office Renovations Done Right

March 4, 2010

It is easy to fall prey to the pressure to update your own office building. But before you do, there are a few things you should consider.

In almost any community in the U.S. you will find buildings with a dated 1960s or even 1950s “look,” while just down the street there are modern, up-to-date office buildings. It is easy to fall prey to the pressure to update your own office building. But before you do, there are a few things you should consider.

First and foremost, you need an honest assessment of your practice - its image, patient census, projected future, and goals. Without a clear-cut and detailed analysis of these items, you shouldn’t proceed with any type of remodeling project.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

What does my new patients and established patient volume look like? Will these numbers increase, decrease, or stay the same?

 

Would it be better to move to a new office or stay in the same location? Would changing location make a significant difference

 

How many providers do you anticipate being part of the practice? Is there adequate space for growth?

 

Is there a plan to add ancillary services?

 

Is there a need for a satellite office?

 

With the implementation of an EHR, can the record-storage area be changed to a revenue-generating space?

 

Would you be willing to expand practice hours and days so that physical expansion would be unnecessary?

Then, consider patient flow by looking at the number of patients per hour, time spent in the office, number of exam rooms, number of chairs in the waiting room, and the like. You might even do a time and motion study. In other words, do a true assessment of your existing space to determine if expansion is necessary and would increase revenue in the long term.

If you have decided to move forward with a renovation, you should contact an architect with experience - not the one that helped design your home. Expect a series of meetings to review the material you have developed in your preparation and review phase. The results will elicit an overview plan, estimated costs of the remodel, or the recommendation to move to another location. You should be prepared for an honest answer.

The next step is the detail work. Take your time here: Visualize your dream office space. It is important to refine the details as minutely as possible because change orders after construction are costly. One thing to remember is that you know better how you work than the architect. For example, an architect may tell you it is less expensive to place exam room sinks in opposite corners so that the same plumbing can serve two sinks. This may be cheaper in terms of construction, but that will force you to use exam rooms that are mirror images of each other. You may decide that greater efficiency is worth the added cost. It is best to approach every patient the same, stocking every room in the same manner with supplies in the same location. Remember, a primary goal in renovating is to gain efficiency to meet a targeted increase in patient visits.

Finally, try to project how remodeling would impact your daily operations. Can construction be done at night and on weekends? Or would you have to find temporary office space?

Once you have committed to moving forward with a renovation, you’ll still need to get bids from contractors, line up financing, and the like. But you can rest easy knowing that you’ve assessed your needs carefully and conducted a thorough planning process. The key to a successful renovation is in the planning.

Owen Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, is a nationally recognized medical practice management consultant and author of “Think Business! Medical Practice Quality, Efficiency, Profits,” “The Medical Practice Disaster Planning Workbook,” and coauthor of “Lean Six Sigma for the Medical Practice: Improving Profitability by Improving Processes.” He can be reached at odahl@owendahlconsulting.com or 281 367 3364.