Feeling cramped?

Feeling cramped?

If your burgeoning practice is making you claustrophobic, try these strategies to accommodate growth.
Jan 01, 2006

YOUR FACILITY IS THE FIRST AND LAST thing clients see when they visit your practice. Imagine their impression if your hospital feels cramped. Do they stand in the waiting room, shuffling side to side as clients and animals sidestep their toes? Do they wait longer than they need to because there aren't enough exam rooms available? If your growing practice has your facility splitting at the seams, it's time to make a change.

Expanding or remodeling your facility is one way to accommodate growth and help increase your revenue. And more than a third of the practices surveyed for the 2005 Well-Managed Practice Study are planning facility renovations or new buildings. But building a bigger and better facility isn't the only way to grow. Consider these options before you think about knocking down the walls. Then decide whether major reconstruction is the remedy for your cramped conditions.

Increasing hours and adding appointments

Technology tools
If you're short on funds for remodeling, renovating, or relocating, consider extending your hours and scheduling in more appointments. One caution with this approach: Make sure you're adding client activity—not just stretching out appointment times or creating gaps in the workday.

Answer these questions to determine whether you have excess or untapped client demand: Are appointments booked two to three weeks out? Do you frequently ask clients to admit their pets for the day because you don't have appointment times available? Do your front-office staff members routinely squeeze extra appointments in to satisfy patients' needs—causing the doctors to run late? If you answered yes, then this strategy might be right for you.

Adding staff members

To extend your hours and add appointments, you may need a boost in staffing support. Then again, maybe you're already pushing your staffing coverage to the limits.

Do you delay necessary medical services like radiographs or laboratory testing because you don't have enough time to complete the diagnostics? Does necessary medical care fall through the cracks because everyone on the team's too busy to think about making the recommendation and educating the client? These situations could indicate a need for additional doctors and/or staff members. And with the additional help, you'd grow practice revenue and use your existing space better.

Maximizing your current space

You may find physical ways to use your space more efficiently, too. Look at the layout of your practice. Do you see opportunities to take back areas that have been overtaken? For example, is file storage consuming too much room? Decide what you really need on-site and move the rest to an off-site location. Maybe you could recover enough square footage to add that extra exam room without any major renovations.

Revamping your facility

Figure 1 Funding an expansion
Of course, sometimes the space needs remodeling or an addition to make it usable. Dr. Bill Skaer and his daughter Dr. Christen Skaer of Skaer Veterinary Clinic in Wichita, Kan., realized that if they limited boarding, they'd create enough space to add a fifth exam room. With the improved client flow and efficiency, as well as the potential to add client services, the fifth exam room would generate more revenue than the boarding cages.