Are you remodeling your existing practice or building a brand-new one? Either way, you should think carefully about the design and layout of the space.
A tasteful, efficient, and welcoming environment can do wonders for patient satisfaction and retention and, by extension, your bottom line.
With this in mind, consider the optometry office design tips below as you envision and bring to life your new practice.
How to Design the Different Areas in Your Optometry Office
Different parts of your office have different functions, and their design should reflect that. Be sure to pay special attention to these areas during the design process:
- Reception: The reception area is your only chance to make a good first impression. Start with the zone just inside the front door, where people typically pause to take in the surroundings and determine where to go next. Make sure it’s immediately clear what the next step is, and have someone greet visitors and help them begin the eye care process. It’s also a good idea to have a separate reception desk for checking in and out to avoid bottlenecks and patients overhearing personal information.
- Waiting area: Avoid the stereotypical medical office waiting room with bland walls, hard chairs, and crusty magazines. The waiting area should put the patient at ease, promote your practice, and maybe provide some entertainment and education. Ensure there are enough seats, and avoid placing chairs right next to the front door. You may also provide informational brochures, toys and books for kids, and a television to play relaxing music or short videos on eye care.
- Preliminary test area: The pre-testing rooms should be smaller than the main exam rooms but spacious enough to accommodate three to four basic tests and avoid bottlenecks when serving multiple patients. To save space, you can have one boomerang-shaped table with several pieces of equipment for each doctor. This way, a patient can have several tests from one chair.
- Exam rooms: If the floor plan permits, these shouldn’t be right next to the retail and reception areas to allow privacy and ease of movement. There should be at least two exam rooms per doctor; three are ideal. Each exam room must accommodate essential equipment and a refracting lane, as well as space for sinks, computers, storage for coats and bags, and seating for at least one person accompanying the patient.
- Optical area and contact lens counter: This area of your practice is a marketing and retail space, not a clinical setting, and you should dress it up as such. Ideally, you want visitors to enter and exit through this area so they can browse your eyewear. Invest in beautiful, modern optical displays with glass and stainless shelves or built-in cubbies, not just frame boards. There should be separate counters for sales and adjustment and a sink near the contact lens counter.
Key Principles of Eye Care Practice Design
While some design considerations are specific to certain areas of your practice, many optometry office layout/design principles apply across the board. You want to keep the following in mind whether you’re designing a waiting room, an exam room, or any other space in your new office:
- Branding: The exterior and interior design of your practice must be in line with your overall brand. Your logo and business name should be visible from the outside, as well as when clients enter and while they wait for an eye exam. A pro tip is to incorporate elements of your logo and brand colors into the color scheme of the walls and furniture.
- Color: Keep color psychology in mind when choosing a palette for your optometry practice. Neutrals are always a safe option but are too bland to be the only colors in a space. Use pops of color to bring excitement and positivity to your office, especially in the retail area, but stay away from bright red and orange, as they can create a sense of anxiety. Instead, opt for hues that evoke calm, trust, or professionalism, such as royal blue, golden yellow, or forest green.
- Clutter: Research suggests a link between clutter and decreased subjective well-being. A cluttered office also makes you come off as messy and unprofessional. Most practitioners know to avoid cluttered work surfaces, but not all realize this applies to walls as well. It’s better to paint them a solid color and have one or two genuine art pieces than to put up multiple low-quality posters.
- Comfort: Getting an eye exam can be stressful, so be sure to put patients at ease. The seats in the reception area should be comfortable and not crammed together. Thoughtful touches like a refreshment bar, a free water station, and complimentary hand lotion in the restrooms also go a long way in making clients feel more relaxed.
- Flow: The office layout should enable flow, gently guiding patients from the moment they come in to the moment they leave. You may wish to consult with professional architects, engineers, or interior designers on how to use structural and design elements to enable flow and foot traffic.
- Lighting: Bright lighting is professional and energizing but can feel harsh and sterile if you go overboard. Dimmer lighting is calming and easier on the eyes but can get dreary if it’s too dark, so opt for a happy middle ground. If possible, install large windows that let in plenty of natural light.
- Accessibility: The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates mandatory accessibility requirements, so be sure to incorporate these as you design your eye care practice.
Other Tips and Tricks for Smart Optometry Practice Design
Comfort and calm are essential to patient care and should be top considerations when designing an optometrist’s office. Soothing colors, comfy seats, relaxing music, and peaceful artwork are all fantastic tools for reducing stress and making clients feel more at ease. Don’t forget that safety and security are critical for patients’ comfort, so be sure to store medications securely and childproof your office if you serve families with young children.
Decoration is another important design element that is easy to overlook. In addition to brightening your space, artwork and decorative pieces can double as educational materials. Printed or painted eye designs with beautiful, intricate imagery and easy-to-read captions and explanations will keep patients engaged while they wait in reception.
Last but not least, embrace nature in your interior design. Healthy green plants, nature-inspired art or decorative elements, and large windows overlooking green spaces can greatly enhance the healing effect of your office. Avoid fake plants—they can come across as tacky and outdated—and be careful with flowers, as they can cause allergic reactions. If you opt for flowers, make sure that they are always fresh, and change the water daily.
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