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clutter.jpgI completed my 65th in office consultation and patient focus group yesterday. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process of sleuthing for the lynch pin holding up practice growth and providing some objective feedback for the doctor and staff. And while most offices strenuously clean up their office in preparation of my arrival (attempting to hide some of the very issues holding them back), in spite of their efforts, from time to time I get a glimpse as to how things really work. Yesterday was no exception.

Usually it’s a couple of dozen Post it notes cluttering the front desk. Or the chiropractor who has made his desk presentable by scoping his desk piles into boxes, stuffing them into a closet he hopes I won’t peak into. This time, it was the diagnostic area of the practice—the area where they use ionizing radiation and other technology to document the source of the patient’s problem.

Imagine my concern when I saw their X-ray equipment, Foot Levelers Associate scanner and the CLA Subluxation Station showing up as a mass of tangled wires, probes and, what would appear to an apprehensive new patient as, confusion. If the diagnostic imaging area of your office could use some refurbishing, consider these suggestions.

Reduce the harsh lighting. Consider replacing the cold fluorescents with track lighting. Track lighting with tungsten spots can give this area of your office a warm, friendly feel and it can dramatically highlight appropriate wall graphics. (Plus, your collimation light will work better.)

Preframe your spinal decay conversation. Position our Spinal Decay chart so patients face it when you take their lateral views. “Later, when you see this picture of your neck, I’m going to have you tell me whether your spine is a textbook normal, phase one, phase two, phase three or somewhere in between.”

Add a plant. You may need to add a GroLux bulb to one of your fixtures, but having something actually living in your X-ray room sends a powerful signal that X-rays are safe. (Notice how many people check to see if it’s actually a live plant.) Naturally, an artificial plant won’t produce the same positive effects!

Improve the graphics. Can patients see your technique chart with your handwritten notations? Print out a clean version on your computer. Does the pregnancy warning look like something pre-WWII? Upgrade it. Are you using thumbtacks anywhere other than on a bulletin board? Frame your posters and charts.

Dress the wires. Organize all the wires, cables and power cords. This is especially true of the cables running from your transformer. Use zip ties or Velcro cable organizers to bring order to the wires. Pay special attention to power strips, printer cables and telephone cords around computers or peripherals.

Remove the cleaning supplies. Remove or organize the inactive file folders and other stuff you store in your X-ray room. It goes without saying the stepladder, vacuum cleaner and twenty-year supply of headrest paper has to go.

Picky? Sure. But these nuances quietly erode your credibility, produce patient caution or full-blown mistrust. Of course there’s a segment of the patient population that looks past these subtle distinctions—perhaps in the same way you might. But these people are unlikely to include opinion makers or the more discerning (and coveted) cash-paying variety.

Clutter is one of the many enemies of credibility. It reveals an inability to remain focused and have clarity about one’s intention. It steals your self-esteem and you pay a hidden tax for it by attracting skeptics who don’t follow through or refer others.

Comments (1)

Martina Chavez:

Thank you! Finally, some insight into the importance of organization! I am a CA working in a new, growing practice. I worked in a high-end practice for a year before moving to a new state where I intentionally pursued another Chiropractic Assistant position.

The office that I have been working for was a disaster zone when I started. Depressing green paint that was 15 years old, dust build-up from the last 3 or more years, indescribable clutter, old, distasteful "decorations," plants that were on their death bed, and the list goes on. Coming from an impeccably clean, fast paced, referral-based practice built from the ground up by a husband and wife team over the last 25 years, I knew I had my work cut out for me to assist this starving practice.

The office has been a chiropractic facility for over 15 years, but was recently bought by a new chiropractic company (in the last year and a half). The previous owner was incredibly disorganized and the first doctor that I started working for was not any better on that end. One of the first things I did when I got to the office was DUST (what a job!). I brought all the plants home and revived them (re-potted, talked to them, gave them some sunlight). Then, I went through every file drawer, file folder, binder, shelf and cupboard, cleaning, organizing and re-decorating. I am a personality that cannot function in clutter. I have an organized brain, and I enjoy these types of tasks, so it was simple for me to see what needed to be done.

Since I have been at the office there has been a doctor transition and I am now working for a very organized doc, who appreciates aesthetics in a similar way. We have started a painting and lighting project together adding soft, rosy tones on all the walls and soft standing lights to offset the harshness of the fluorescent bulbs overhead.

So far, the reactions that we have gained from patients include comments
like: "Wow, the place doesn't look like a jail anymore!" and "I feel so relaxed. I love coming here. It's like a little retreat." Nothing is be better than to know that the environment that patients are experiencing is soothing and HEALING--the ultimate goal of course.

Our office is still working on marketing, educating and inviting new patients in to the office, but given the new atmosphere that has finally come to life, there is no longer hesitation when bringing a new patient back to the exam room, or apologies for the disorganization with statements like "Don't mind the mess, we're in the middle of a project." Not something a hesitant new patient wants to hear or experience. Patient retention has drastically improved which, in the long run, is what will bring in referrals.

I argued with the previous doctor quite a bit about what was a priority in the office: marketing first or organization? My argument always remained that even if we got patients into the office, would they want to stay? Clearly, before the "face-lift" the answer was NO. Our marketing efforts are much more successful and worthwhile now that we can offer a practice that looks like it’s going to be here a while. We no longer attract people who are seeking free care and are used to the government-run feeling that our office used to produce. What a difference!

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From March 8, 2007 7:17 PM

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 8, 2007 7:17 PM.

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