Cleaning up your office is good for your patients, your staff—and for business

If the number and popularity of books on decluttering and organizing are any indication, most of us are obsessed with simplifying our surroundings. Amazon lists over 1,000 books about decluttering, and over 6,000 on home organization. But what about your medical practice? Is your waiting room clean and serene? Is your front office streamlined and organized? Are your exam rooms welcoming and clutter-free? If not, it may be time to do some spring cleaning. Here’s our room-by-room guide to sprucing up your practice.

1. Your waiting room

We’ve written before about the importance of your waiting room in making a good first impression, putting people at ease, and letting patients be productive while they wait. Invite a friend or family member who hasn’t seen your waiting room in a while to visit it with fresh eyes and give you feedback.

Use technology to facilitate a better patient experience, and eliminate paper clutter at the same time.

Are patients greeted by piles of old magazines and pamphlets? Here’s where technology can help you simplify your waiting room and improve patients’ perception of your practice. A growing trend in health care is “using technology to facilitate a better patient experience, rather than emphasizing cosmetic changes such as waterfalls and chandeliers,” according to Modern Healthcare.

Providing registration forms on an iPad, giving patients a beeper or texting them when their room is ready, and showing patient education videos are all ways to leverage technology to improve the patient experience—and eliminate paper clutter as well.

For more tips on improving your space, download our free eBook, How to Design the Perfect Waiting Room for Patients

2. Your front office

A patient walks in and approaches the reception desk. Does he or she need to push aside pens, clipboards, bottles of hand sanitizer, and boxes of tissues to sign in? Are there piles of patient files stacked on all surfaces?

Doctors love to hate EHRs, but one thing they’re good for is eliminating paper charts and streamlining your front office. And, most EHRs include a patient portal, which patients like because it allows them to view their charts online, make prescription refill requests, and contact their providers with questions, among other features.

EHRs and apps can help store info electronically, making records easier to access, eliminating paper, and even reducing the likelihood of embezzlement.

Technology can also help practice staff be more organized and efficient. Instead of wasting time trying to track down a paper receipt, use an app like Evernote to electronically store receipts. The Wunderlist app lets users create, share, and check off to-do lists and supply lists.

“Open mail once,” advised Physicians Practice. Have a policy of not opening mail unless you’re prepared to deal with it right then and there. “A three-part file system of ‘do now,’ ‘do later,’ and ‘file’ can help you process the most pressing paperwork quickly as your work flow allows. Everything else should be trashed, which has the added benefit of helping to reduce clutter.”

Getting your office organized has the added benefit of reducing theft and embezzlement, a major problem in health care.

For more on this topic, see Is Your Practice at Risk for Embezzlement?

3. Your exam rooms

Again: declutter, declutter, declutter. An article in American Nurse Today about the wellness benefits of redesigned hospital rooms asks nurses to imagine walking into a patient’s room where the bedside table is littered with trash, medicine wrappers, and “the detritus of patient care” that distracts from any improvements in décor. “Modern design can go only so far in fostering a healing environment around the bedside. Hospital staff and others who enter the room—and the clutter they leave behind—influence the overall architecture and ambience of the space.”

To patients, a cluttered room may be perceived as unclean, causing patient satisfaction scores to suffer.

A cluttered environment can even negatively impact patient satisfaction scores. Citing HCAHPS survey data, the article found that 73 percent of patients on average rated their room and bathroom as clean, compared to the industry benchmark of 85 percent. To patients, cluttered may be perceived as unclean.

Professional organizers know the key to keeping a space tidy is having a place for everything. Do you need an additional wastebasket, magazine rack, or cabinet in your exam room to store supplies out of sight? Designate a purpose for every space in the room, so no area becomes a catch-all or “junk drawer.”

Want more tips on running a more efficient and patient-friendly practice? Check out the Practice Management section of our blog archives, and subscribe to our newsletter.