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Earn big returns from a hospital face-lift

Looking for upgrades that won’t break the bank? Start with new countertops, LED lights or even a small dental suite.

Earn big returns from a hospital face-lift
Melrose Animal Clinic in Massachusetts gained curb appeal when Animal Arts transformed a drab facade and interior into something that was brighter and more inviting.

Do any of these scenarios remind you of your hospital?

  • Your lobby, exam rooms and treatment areas look tired.
  • You are near capacity, so you have trouble accommodating additional patients and new services.
  • Your employees are bumping into each other while examining patients, running diagnostic tests or performing procedures.
  • Your competitors offer services you could have if you had the space. You look at their shiny new buildings with seething envy.

Melrose Animal Clinic before its renovation.

If you can relate to any of those scenarios — all of them? — it’s time to consider an investment in renovating your floor plan. A smart renovation doesn’t have to break the bank, and it can pay for itself in no time by giving you added revenue opportunities.

With certain renovations, you can increase patient visits, expand services, sell additional products and generate other sources of revenue while boosting the morale (and perhaps retention) of your entire team.

Plus, the right renovation can set you apart from the competition. Imagine being able to announce to your pet community, “We now offer [new services or benefits] in our beautiful, updated practice!”

What the Experts Say

Sounds wonderful, right? But where do you begin? Which renovations will deliver the biggest return?

We asked four veterinary industry architects: Ashley M. Shoults, AIA, of Animal Arts in Boulder, Colorado; Wayne Usiak, AIA, of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Geoff Graham and John Wiertel of Project 64 in Cleveland. Each has extensive experience in helping practices transform their space through exciting, high-return upgrades.

“When practices are thinking about a renovation, it’s almost always for the same reason,” Usiak said. “They started their practice on a budget, with limited funds. Then they’ve grown, practicing high-level medicine but with basic equipment and in a cramped layout. Over time, their quality of work isn’t reflected in the space.”

Practice owners often tell Usiak, “We want to offer more exams and get people through here faster, with fewer steps between operations.” And he’s often told that the staff is tired of old, worn-out facilities.

“If you want to keep your staff, keep your facility up to date,” he said. “Otherwise, that shiny new clinic down the street looks much better.”

Competitive Pressure

Project 64 turned a dark, unused nook into a practical, money-generating dental suite. A punched window introduced natural light.

The opening of a nearby competitor may trigger thoughts of renovations, Shoults said.

“But other times the decision revolves around a future [event] — trying to sell the practice or bring on a new associate — and a renovation will make the hospital more desirable to help make this happen,” she said.

When veterinarians call Wiertel about doing a new project, they often don’t know what it entails. Therefore, Project 64’s approach is analytical, always focused on the clinic’s revenue potential.

“We meet with clinics, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations on what will quickly turn revenue for them,” Wiertel said. “Perhaps it’s adjusting an office so it becomes a dental suite. Or adding a space for drop-offs, which can add 15 percent to practice revenue. When you can help a practice become analytical and remove emotion, it’s amazing what you can create for solutions.”

To help you figure out which renovations may make the most sense — and cents — we asked the experts to reveal their top recommendations within three budget parameters.

Up to $50,000

BDA Architecture remodeled a hospital lobby through the use of fresh paint and new flooring.

Usiak: “Customers are often surprised by the difference a few cosmetic updates can make. New countertops, a good tile floor, or even painting the walls a bright new, modern color are the easiest ways to change the look of the entire hospital.”

Shoults: “Use color and light to create a cheerful yet calming environment that gives a good first impression. Increase daylight through skylights or new exterior windows, or by installing LED light fixtures that are more energy efficient and nicer aesthetically.”

Graham: “We focus on repurposing the existing infrastructure in ways that don’t require city permits. If they’re looking to grow revenue by $100,000 a year, we recommend adding dental services in an old grooming room, break room or office. Other ideas include adding cages or upgraded equipment.”

$50,000 to $150,000

Usiak often recommends a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to increase thermal comfort and help remove odors. “While doing that, we’re able to replace [beat-up] doors and frames, add new acoustic tile ceilings that minimize noise, and add a central oxygen system and anesthesia evacuation system, which are all much safer for the staff.”

Shoults: “Replacing outdated equipment and cabinetry with new, more ergonomic and appropriate versions can help both your clients and your staff feel better. And consider adding or replacing doors with glass models and installing new interior-view windows. It helps make the hospital feel larger and sends a positive message of openness to clients.”

Graham noted that structural changes may involve government permits but can be well worth it. “Perhaps you can convert a large office into a small office and a small dental suite. Or partition a large treatment area to create a special treatment room, separate recovery-cage area or consultative exam rooms. More exams equal more revenue.”

More Than $150,000

The experts agreed that the sky’s the limit in this budget range.

“Now you can afford to move walls and upgrade ceilings, lighting, HVAC, equipment and other systems,” Usiak said.

Wiertel added: “No matter what, don’t think of your clinic renovation as a project. Think of it as an investment in new revenue-generating services for your growth.”

5 easy upgrades

  • Lighting: “LED lighting is one of the first new materials we incorporate into practices for an easy, big impact,” said BDA Architecture’s Wayne Usiak.
  • Dental suite: Project 64’s Geoff Graham is a fan of adding dental suites in small, underused spaces. “You’re instantly adding a competitive, high-revenue service by doing this,” he said.
  • Smaller waiting areas and more exam rooms with exam checkout: “To reduce patient stress and increase staff efficiency, many hospitals are choosing to check out clients in the exam room [using tablet computers] rather than send them back to the reception area,” said Animal Art’s Ashley Shoults. “Reception desks are becoming simple greeters’ stations.”
  • New dog runs and animal holding cages: “Clients don’t want their dogs in cages, so offer new runs in vertical spaces,” Usiak said. “Reserve your cages for essential medical purposes and invest in lasting stainless steel.”
  • A calming environment: “When you create separate cat and dog waiting areas and exam rooms with animal-friendly color palettes and pheromones, you’re supporting the Fear Free movement, which pleases clients,” Shoults said.