Your office is cramped, cluttered and you can’t keep up with increasing demand. It’s time to expand. Up-to-date dental equipment and technology will be a must, but beyond improving the technological care, what design features will you consider when thinking about the overall patient experience? Here we’ve explored four design considerations that will be important during your dental office remodeling.
Deciding on a dental office design will require an understanding of patients’ multidimensional sensory experience. What sounds?, images?, feelings?, do patients associate with my practice? Dr. Gardiner of Alaska Dental Care voiced these exact concerns when updating his office in Anchorage. The doctor knew that sound, in particular, could have a negative effect on patient experience. An article in Sidekick Magazine featuring his practice, Alaska Dental Care, explains that, in fact, “Dr. Gardiner was so concerned about how sound would affect his patients that he upgraded to quieter electric KaVo handpieces and placed the hygiene rooms on the opposite end of the office from the treatment rooms.” The Henry Schein field rep who assisted in the dental office remodeling explained further, “By locating the doctor’s mechanicals in a suite two stories above his practice, we were able to create a virtually silent office.” Sound design, when properly executed, can be a key touch point in your “office brand.” The question— will your patients relax in silence or be greeted first by the dreaded drill?
In the Sidekick Magazine article, “Creating Great First Impressions with Office Design – Making Your Office ‘Pop’”, Dr. Mark Tholen explains important design features to make an office stand out. An important feature the doctor notes is visibility. He explains that “as patients enter the front door, it should be glass or have a glass insert so they can see the space they are entering. In fact, this principle should be carried throughout the office to alleviate subliminal anxiety in new patients as they move from space to space in the office.” Allowing foresight and an ability to know what is coming will help ease anxiety and put patients back in control of their own experience. From a practical, applied perspective, visibility can be more than glass doors. Some other possible strategies? Higher ceilings, large open windows, easy access to exits and an open seating wait room are a few possibilities.
Your dental practice is a business. Even though the mission of your practice is improving the lives of patients, you are still subject to the challenges of owning, branding, and driving traffic into your business. You might not be looking for a new location while expanding, but understanding how your patients and potential patients see your practice will be a crucial element to keep new business coming through the door. Dr. Mark Tholen also spoke to the importance of location and outer image in making an office pop. One of the most important parts? The signs. He says, “The first contact your new patient has with the office is viewing its signage. It should reflect the quality of care you are providing in the office and be legible and visible from the road. Character font, color, verbiage, and sign materials will all be part of the message about the quality of care.” Location matters, but a location is only as good as its supporting features. Not every remodel needs a change of location, but every dental office should consider the features that make their location more visible and more desirable. This can include better signage, road access, land maintenance and other aesthetic efforts that will increase “brand awareness” and customer access.
An obvious step in redesigning will be choosing a floor plan. You’ll want to design a comfortable and efficient work space, but an important consideration will be making a practice that is ideal for dental work. The Henry Schein Integrated Design Studio specializes in working with doctors to design a space that looks out for the best interests of both staff and patients. Ryan Lingenfelter, a Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist, gave an example of the importance of room design in an interview for Sidekick magazine. He recalled, “One of my customers showed me design plans that had been drawn up by an architect, and they called for operatories that were 15½ feet deep instead of 10½ x 12 feet deep, which is typical. The room was actually too large and not ergonomical. If the room is not designed correctly, it can affect the doctor and the staff’s long-term health.” Although the room might fit your look and design, it will need to also be judged on its efficiency and operability. One size does not always fit-all— consider your work style, office dynamic and long term health when doing a dental office remodeling.