Morgan Welburn, OD, and her practice partner Alexandra Rowley, OD, of Renfrew, Ontario, recently completed an office expansion and renovation in the summer of 2022. The office, Renfrew Eye Clinic, remained open through seven months of construction. Dr. Welburn found WO to be a great resource in terms of designing the new office space and choosing a new look and style, so she’s offering back some advice from the renovation experience.
Always plan for more than what you think you’ll need. That can refer to time, but also space and in terms of connectivity. Plan for the future and growth. “Our pretesting room has ethernet cables and outlets galore—more than what we need because we don’t know what machinery we will need down the road,” Dr. Welburn says.
Ask staff members what they need early on. “As the doctor who is mostly in the exam room, you don’t necessarily know about the usability of the front desk and the importance of where a printer is installed. They know what’s important day-to-day, so ask your staff so you don’t miss little things that make the experience more efficient for staff and patients.” In their snowy and rural community, she also learned it was important to designate a place for patients to take off their boots when they come in for a winter eye exam. She also credits the staff with being amazing through the renovation process so that they were able to stay open during it all.
Connect with colleagues for ideas. “We walked through a lot of clinics that had recently been renovated,” Dr. Welburn says, and it opened the doctors’ eyes to many great ideas that, otherwise, they may have overlooked. For example, those visits led to the addition of a prescription pick-up area separate from the dispensing space in the optical; it’s less disruptive to opticians working through a sale, and patients can more quickly get an adjustment or pick up glasses or contact lenses right near the front door. It’s also convenient so patients don’t have to take off their boots during the winter just for pick-ups. “It’s a small and efficient area that has helped with our office flow.”
Touch base with your bookkeeper and keep copies of all invoices. There are many expenses involved in a renovation. It’s important to track all expenses and be prepared for an audit as your income statement will look very different for a renovation year. “We decided to proactively purchase audit insurance through our accountant, and we are happy we did as our increase in expenses triggered an audit,” Dr. Welburn says. Because this policy was in place, she adds that they did not incur any additional accounting expenses.