An article posted by Physician Practice magazine (from their June issue) got me thinking: the appearance of the office is an important “housekeeping” chore and part of your marketing efforts.
I frequently use a quote that Tom Peters has used – the comments is from Donald Burr, the founder of People’s Express, one of the early low cost airlines. “Coffee stains on the flip down trays,” said Burr, “means bad maintenance on the airplanes”. The venerable Lazard Frere investment banking house could get away with frayed carpets, but you can’t. Unless you’re the high end cosmetic plastic surgeon, or your practice is in an upscale area, you can strike for a middle ground – somewhere in the Target/Lowe’s scale, clean, not quite boring, not pretty much middle of the road. I have seen more than one hospital buy practices, build Taj Mahal structures to house them, and then wonder why they were losing money.
A thorough cleaning is a good starting place – a crew to come in, move furniture, climb ladders, open light fixtures and really get the office to be spotless. Paint freshens the look a lot, and any paneling should be removed. Paint gives you the opportunity to use some color – no need to use white or beige without any kind of contrast. Hallways and exam room, which are more likely to be bumped, may do better with wallpaper. It’s also easier to wash down.
Furniture should be repaired, chairs must have arms (for anyone, particularly the elderly, who have difficulty getting in or out of chairs), sinking cushions have the foam/stuffing replaced, and so on.
While the article’s idea of a book/magazine swap is interesting, I would still recommend that you keep home and office separate. Subscribe to a reasonable mix of magazines that fits your patients. The article suggested music, which I also suggest – more classical than rock for a calming effect. You can use the same services that restaurants, retail and other businesses use as background and on-hold music – it’s royalty free, you select what you want, and you pay a one time fee. I have not personally purchased any of these in a number of years, so I can’t recommend any specific company, but a quick search will find companies such as stockmusic.com.
A thorough cleaning of an office, including desks, phones, keypads and so on, is a good management practice for the maintenance of the facilities and equipment. It’s easy to put aside (as we often do at home) but going on a twice a year schedule – and sticking do it – becomes part of the management routine.