Q How much does it cost to construct a typical office?
A If you’re talking about the cost to build out an existing space (i.e., carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, flooring, and painting), the cost can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Commercial build-out projects can run anywhere from $5 to $50 a square foot, depending on geographic location and how much work needs to be done. For example, to build out a “typical” 1,200-square-foot chiropractic office in a strip mall or professional building, the average cost would be between $10,000 and $40,000.
Here’s a rough breakdown of those costs:
- Plumbing $500 to $2,500
- Wall Construction $3,000 to $15,000
- Paint $200 to $2,000
- Carpet $800 to $2,500
- Signage $500 to $5,000
- Doors, Trim, and Molding $600 to $2,500
- X-ray Unit Installation $800 to $2,500
- Lead Shielding $1,000 to $6,000
Keep in mind that the costs do not include equipment, supplies, and operating capital, which can cost as much or more than the total cost of construction.
Q How much space do I need if I’m just starting out?
A It’s important for new doctors to understand success is not dependent on the number of square feet occupied. Yes, having a professional-looking office that provides adequate space is necessary, but that doesn’t mean you have to start with 2,500 square feet. Practice success is more dependent on factors such as communication, trust and overall rapport with patients than it is on having a big, showy office.
I typically recommend that a new doctor start out with as few square feet as possible (i.e., 500 to 1,500 square feet). This strategy preserves precious operating capital, which will be needed to operate the practice during the first year. The primary goals of a new doctor should be to lease a small space, make it look professional, then concentrate on succeeding in the competitive health-care industry. The office space can always be enlarged as the practice grows.
Q How much floor space should I allocate for my adjusting room(s)?
A It depends mostly on the type of adjusting techniques and treatment tables you use. For example, if you’re using a technique that requires the patient to be in a side posture position, you will need at least 2 feet of space on each side of the table. A little less space, perhaps 6 to 10 inches less, is needed if the patient remains prone or supine during the adjustment. Likewise, if you’re using an adjusting table that is large or has the capability to move from side to side, a little more space – perhaps an extra 12 inches – will be required. Remember, even more space will be needed if seating, a dressing area, or physiotherapy equipment is to be incorporated. Any adjusting room smaller than 8 feet by 10 feet is usually considered too small. I usually recommend dedicating as much space as possible to the adjusting rooms, because that’s where you spend most of your time.
Q Are there any office design issues to consider when installing a new computer system?
A Yes, there are a few things to consider. First, determine how the system will be used. If it’s only going to be used for billing purposes, a single unit placed at or near the front desk will probably suffice. However, if it’s going to be used for scheduling, reports, progress notes, displaying X-rays, etc., I recommend installing a small network. Advancements in software and hardware make it possible for even a modest practice to have multiple computer workstations networked together and placed throughout the office. For example, consider placing a workstation at the front desk, in the exam room, in each treatment room or area, in the business office, and in any other location where data input is performed.
Be sure to implement proper ergonomic design principles. For example, eye strain can be reduced or eliminated by making sure ambient light levels don’t cause screen glare. Monitors should be placed at eye level. Consider using form-fitted keyboards, computer mice, wrist rests, and armrests to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive movement injuries. I also recommend using a high-quality, ergonomically correct chair or stool in combination with a footrest.
Make a positive impression on patients by making sure all the cables used to connect the computers and peripheral hardware are routed in a neat and orderly manner. This can be done simply and inexpensively by using tie straps or cable management accessories usually available from an office supply store or catalog.
Q My office always seems to look cluttered. How can I get it to look more organized?
A It’s been my experience that doctors often underestimate the negative impression a cluttered office can create with patients. When patients see a messy and cluttered office, they often think subconsciously, “this practice is disorganized,” and subsequently are inclined to question the abilities of you and your staff. You certainly never want your competency to be questioned, especially based on superficial reasons, so here are some ideas to help get you organized.
First, eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to the functionality of the office. If an item is being “stored” for future use, get rid of it or take it home.
Second, closely evaluate all items in the reception room or area. This is an area that is often cluttered with an overabundance of posters, displays, brochures, flyers, notices, advertisements, magazines, etc. Try limiting these items to just a few. Having fewer items actually makes each item more likely to be noticed. This is a case where less is more.
Third, keep all books, files, paperwork, and X-ray films out of sight. These items can clutter an office when placed on desktops, windowsills, counter tops, or the floor. I recommend setting aside a designated location for each group of items. To help accomplish this task, try using any of the storage and organizational tools, devices, or items that are available from most office-supply stores or catalogs.
Fourth, implement a task sheet detailing how weekly cleaning, filing, organizing, and discarding procedures are to be performed. Give a copy of the sheet to each staff member and explain how each of these procedures is part of their job.
Fifth, take a look around to see what can be improved. For example, are break areas being kept clean? Are windowsills cluttered with various items? Does there seem to be an over abundance of personal items, such as photographs or accessories on desktops? Are telephone and computer cables tangled, unorganized, and exposed for patients to see? Cleaning up these areas can dramatically improve the overall look of any office.