By Troy Patterson

Jack DiBerardino has upended the traditional optometrist office format to take the ‘waiting’ out of ‘waiting room.’

The veteran Orangeville, Ont., optometrist has seen positive feedback in the year since he implemented a series of drastic changes to his practice, which DiBerardino said are designed to improve both customer experience and staff working conditions.

The renovations combined his knowledge and ‘best practice’ from 30 years in the field of optometry, with advice from designers, architects, patients frustrated with healthcare professionals, as well as ideas from practice management articles and journals. The years of discussion allowed DiBerardino to put together a list of changes to achieve his goals for a higher level of customer service.

“The common thread of the frustrations dealt with the concept of waiting,” he said.

Dr. Jack DiBerardino.

Dr. Jack DiBerardino of Orangeville Optometric Centre.

For example, a patient gets to an office on time and may have to wait to check in. This creates an uncomfortable and sometimes stressful problem with line queues, staff not knowing who patients are, time filling out forms and more ‘waiting.’ DiBerardino said patients may not even know what’s really going on during the visit, before being given a prescription and leaving.

All of this, over the years, I started to say we have to change this,” he said.

Working with his friend and colleague, Brad Stronach, a retail consultant with 30 years in the optical field, the two compiled many ideas about the future of the optical patient experience. As an example of the changes, DiBerardino’s eight-doctor optometry practice has eliminated the ‘front desk’ in favour of a ‘Greeting/Welcoming’ station that allows staff to deal with the patient directly, rather than juggling administration tasks at the same time.

So basically it broke down all of the barriers that I think a health care practice has,” he said.

By moving the front desk or ‘chaos centre,’ as he calls it, away from patients and redubbing it the ‘Administration Centre’, the sound of phones, faxing, discussions surrounding bookings, scheduling and billing, are all taken away. This increases the privacy for staff to discuss details with patients, while eliminating distracting noise pollution.

“This frees up the floor staff to be dedicated to the patient in front of them and not be constantly interrupted by the phone, couriers et cetera while they are engaged with the patient,” he said.

The office also differs in its office paging system, as well as its hands-free communication radios that allow staff to respond to requests from their colleagues swiftly and quietly, while creating an intimate and more personalized hand off of the patient to support staff, with information on the patients’ needs and who they are.

“This eliminates even more of the background noise which most offices are plagued with,” he said. “My staff can now alert each other when a specific area needs more support.”

The office has two separate greeting areas, with one equipped with refreshments for patients/companions, alongside a second room for those who have already seen a doctor, which has also reduced traffic.

The practice also has a dedicated contact lens teaching and training area, with a large diagnostic and retail inventory that allows his business to provide what his patients require, when they need it.

DiBerardino said it was a significant investment, but in a competitive market, it’s important to meet patient needs so they will keep coming back, rather than send them off to spend money elsewhere.

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