10 exam-room fixes

10 exam-room fixes

Oct 31, 2006

exam-room makeover

10 exam-room fixes

You don't have to redo your entire exam room to change the look and feel. Really, you don’t. One of these 10 changes, each starting under $500, might just do the trick.

The bottom line

If you think your exam room looks worn out or out-of-date, your clients probably think so, too. But don’t worry, one or two changes could drastically improve any exam room without emptying your wallet. Take a look at your door, walls, flooring, seating, cabinetry, and ceiling, and identify changes that would bring your room up to the standard of your care.

Do you ever look around your exam room and think, “It’s all got to go.” You’re so fed up with the cluttered, ’60s-style décor that you’d like to drive a bulldozer right through your practice and rip it out. Stop right there.

You can dramatically change the look of your room without uprooting your building or spending a fortune. To get you started, we asked an expert for advice. Wayne Usiak, AIA, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and senior partner with BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M., offers these specific ways you can make a striking difference in the way your room looks by changing just one thing. And you can achieve many of the fixes for less than $500. (Of course bells and whistles cost more.) Take an unbiased look at your exam rooms and think about whether any of these strategies should go on your “must-happen-now” list.

1. Clear the clutter

This exam-room makeover strategy is free. You just need to work those muscles enough to tote the extra knickknacks out. You could even delegate the job, so you don’t have to sweat. Here’s how to get started: “Take pictures of your room from a couple of different angles,” says Usiak. “Blow them up to 9 inches by 12 inches and print them out. Leave these pictures lying around for a few days, and you’ll begin to see things you need to take out of the room.” For instance, stand-up advertisements, calendars, and anything else that sits on the counter week after week, he says. Make an offering to the circular file, and throw them away.

Next check out your walls. If it’s not in a frame, throw it away—or frame it fast. Usiak quotes board member Dr. Ross Clark on this one, “If it’s good enough to put on your wall, it’s good enough to frame.”

2. Paint, paper, and trim.

Are your walls or trim outdated? Paint, paper, and trim can take your exam room from ughh to ahhh. Cost: Paint: $1 per square foot (if you hire a painter); wallpaper: $3 to $10 per square foot; chair rail: $1 per running foot; total: between $300 and $600 dollars

Think about the trim when you think about the paint, says Usiak. And consider adding a chair rail, crown molding to the ceiling, door casing, or base trim where the floor meets the walls.

If you install a chair rail, you can paint different colors above and below the rail, which would typically be between 30 and 42 inches high, says Usiak. Use dark colors below the chair rail and lighter colors above it. You could also paint one entire wall a darker color if you paint the other three walls a lighter color to keep the room from feeling closed in.

You could also wallpaper below the chair rail. “If you go this route, use Type 2 Vinyl covering,” he says. “It’s washable, antimicrobial, and can stand the abuse of animals and scrubbing cycles,” he says. You don’t have to pay a fortune for this update. Keep in mind, the more work you give a decorator or painter at one time, the lower the cost per square foot.

“Rubber trim costs the least,” says Usiak, “and some extrusions look like wood moldings—these don’t dent and you don’t have to paint them.” It’s a full time job keeping up to speed with available materials, so Usiak recommends hiring a creative designer who can search for materials.

3. Install new counter tops.

Cost: between $25 and $100 a running foot. “You can really change the mood of an exam room just by changing the counter tops,” says Usiak. “An average veterinary hospital exam room has less than 10 linear feet of counter top, so it costs between $250 and $1,000 total to change,” he says. You may be thinking that your counter tops are still in good condition. But if they’re 15 years old, they probably look 15 years old. And if you’re tired of the colors and style, so are your clients.