A common concrete trough sink.
We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting design ideas that hopefully, one day we’ll be able to incorporate into a project for one of our clients. While we’re not exactly sure how we’d work this into a dental office design, the Coup d’état restaurant that recently opened in Minneapolis’ Uptown District really has a fun twist on restroom design. Rather than completely separate facilities for men and women or the increasingly popular unisex arrangement, they still separated the main facilities between the sexes but combined the hand-washing station into a single, long, poured concrete trough with several faucets positioned along the length. This common area not only affords a great pattern interrupt from the same ol’, same ol’ in restaurant restrooms, it makes great use of the long, narrow hallway that so often accompanies access to restrooms. Plus, because it is unexpected patrons to the restaurant engage in spontaneous conversation while washing their hands before returning to their tables. What a great way to get people off their phones and talking to one another!
Of course, we cannot forget those with disabilities. One end of the trough was lowered and had its own sink at a height and design compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This feature was also poured concrete and integrated into the whole so it felt natural and a part of the design rather than an afterthought or special accommodation.
The ADA compliant sink at one end.
We applaud the designers for Coup d’état on their creativity and originality and look forward to the chance to flatter them by “copying it” in one of our own. (Oh, by the way, the food is really good, too.)
Spring flowers in the snow.
Spring is almost here and one of the surest signs that it is on its way is the appearance of flower buds poking through the snow. The mere sight of these bright colors immediately lights one’s spirits and puts a smile on one’s face. The same is true when patients first walk into a dental office and are greeted by an arrangement of fresh flowers. Nothing does the trick of brightening a room the way fresh cut flowers can, and after a long, cold, dreary winter, an arrangement of spring flowers can really add life to the office décor.
An arrangement of fresh cut flowers doesn’t only put patients in a better mood, but provide a great energy boost to the staff working in the office. When staff members are in a good mood this automatically extends to how they greet patients in person as well as on the phone, making exchanges warmer and friendlier. The more positive the interactions patients have while in the dental office the higher the likelihood they will provide positive referrals to their family and friends.
Happier staff also translates into a more productive workforce. While the cost of keeping fresh cut flowers in the office may seem high, the returns from increased productivity and increased referrals more than offsets the rise in overhead expenses.
Blue. More specifically, indigo, is a hot color right now. Earlier we discussed that Radiant Orchid is Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year, but Indigo is definitely a hot choice right now among color enthusiasts. The color watchers at The Wall Street journal are seeing a re-emergence of Indigo in everything from fashion to furnishings and print.
What makes Indigo such an appealing color? Think blue jeans. Ever since Levi Strauss launched his line of jeans in the 19th century, Americans have been in love with their jeans. Who doesn’t wear a pair when they are off work and relaxing? Heck, we’re known to wear our favorite pairs until they have holes and are practically falling off of us. If one is going to design a dental office and brand it as the ultimate in relaxed, comfortable, and friendly oral health care, what better way to capture this than by using indigo and denim as part of the décor?
The goal is to create a space that people feel comfortable coming to so they won’t cancel their appointments out of anxiety and that they’ll refer all of their family and friends to. Indigo can be an excellent choice, working well against a backdrop of neutral colors from white to beige to taupe to bring a sense of calm and relaxation to the practice. Will indigo appeal across genders? We certainly think so. What man doesn’t own a pair of jeans and have blue in his closet?
Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year
Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year is 18-3224 Radiant Orchid, which they describe as, “…a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple.”1
“While the 2013 color of the year, PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald, served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”1
We agree. The modern dental office experience screams for originality, creativity, and individualization of the patient experience, and the design of the office is a key foundation for building a brand that brings this all together for the thriving practice. Without a unique brand and patient experience how else is a dental office going to set itself apart and thrive in an increasingly crowded marketplace where a new practice opens seemingly across the street every day? Infusing the office design with accents of colors that speak to the here, the now, and the creative is one way to keep the patient experience fresh, unique, and different. Layered over a neutral palette of grays, beiges, or taupes, this color used as an accent can really re-energize a space without overpowering it.
We challenge our clients to think beyond the box and embrace a bold and different branding message and consider incorporating this year’s Color of the Year into their accent pieces.
1 Pantone Reveals Color of the Year for 2014:
PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid
A Lindt truffle
Do you remember when your dentist gave you a sucker after your appointment? I do. I loved Charm Pops and going to the dentist was the only time I ever got one. Getting to pick out a grape one after my appointment made me feel special and helped take away the anxiety of having to go in the first place. (I feared having a cavity and having my teeth pulled.)
The other night I returned to my hotel room following a banquet to find a Lindt chocolate on my pillow and the bed turned down. While many consider such touches to be old fashion, I find them quite nice. The simple touch was a nice surprise coming back to the room after a long day.
I understand why dentists don’t give out sugary candy after appointments anymore. A bit self-serving and not exactly a promotion of good oral health, but there are other ways to add a special little touch to one’s dental experience to make the trip more special. (I friend and co-advisor in a youth group I work with likes to call this “specialer”.) So, the goal is to design a dental experience that is “specialer” so patients feel good about their visits and time spent there. When a “specialer” experience is achieved patients refer more family and friends about how great their experience was, which translates into growth for the practice. And, the best part is creating a “specialer” dental experience only requires little touches – remember the Charm Pops and Lindt chocolate.
Roll out the red carpet for your patients.
The red carpet. Conjures up star studded events such as the Academy Awards and other award shows. The people that walk there are special. They get noticed. They get treated well. Is it too much to ask to get a little “red carpet” treatment injected into our everyday lives? The patients that come to your dental office deserve nothing less.
We’re not advocating that every dental office be designed with red carpeting. That would be rather dull, wouldn’t it? No, instead we’re advocating that the experience of walking into one’s dental office should make a patient feel they are the most important person in the world at that moment. They should be immediately surrounded by colors, lights, and textures that make them feel calm, relaxed, and confident that they will receive excellent oral health care. They should be greeted by a warm, smiling person that acknowledges that their presence is appreciated and important. They should be offered a comfortable place to sit, a secure place to hang their coat, and a beverage to warm them or quench their thirst. While the goal is to never have anyone waiting, one cannot anticipate the patient that arrives early or the unexpected procedure that delays an operatory from being available exactly as scheduled.
In accordance with HIPAA patients should not be addressed by their full names and there should not be a sign in sheet that identifies them or their appointment time where other patients may read this information. Gone should be the ultra-unfriendly and overly clinical glass window that staff hides behind and cuts them off from patients.
We’ve never walked into a day spa that didn’t immediately make us feel good about being there. The same thing cannot be said about many dental offices. While dental offices are not day spas, there is no reason that dental offices can’t take a page from the day spa handbook on how to give patients a “walk on the red carpet.”
A beautiful, curving modern design
In order to achieve a great patient experience form and function must meld together seamlessly through the design so that there are no negative pattern interrupts. This is not always easy to achieve and requires the designer and user to work closely together to understand how a space is going to be used on a daily basis. If this doesn’t happen things that look good on paper may not work well at all in application. For example, I recently saw a lovely faucet that had beautiful curved, modern lines; however, to turn the water from cold to hot one had to rotate the control counter clockwise to rear of the faucet. Anyone that is left handed could not reach the control while standing directly in front of the sink and had to step to their right in order to operate it. Function Fail.
A more common function fail we see in dental office designs is the lack of anywhere to hang one’s coat. We understand most patients do not like the idea of leaving a coat unattended in the waiting room, but rarely do we find any accommodations made in the operatory to put them. Coats end up draped over a side chair or scrunched in the corner of the room. How hard is it to put a couple of coat hooks in each room?
Positive pattern interrupts are great in design. They wake people up from the fog they tend to wander through and causes them to pay more attention to their surroundings and makes an experience more memorable. However, unlike negative ones, the memories are good ones. For example, a woman walking into the restroom at her dental office to find a special shelf for her to place her purse on so it isn’t merely sitting on the floor or counter comes as a pleasant surprise.
The goal in designing the patient experience is to blend form and function together so the memories are all positive. When this is achieved patients go away telling their family and friends only good things which generates more referrals and subsequently more patients and the practice grows. Another good thing.
Soon to be history, incandescent bulb
One of the critical ways to help create a memorable dental office experience is through appropriate lighting. Good lighting design will help a space really come alive. Lighting helps create and enhance the shadows and spots that transforms a room from ordinary to spectacular. We really feel it is a shame that so many dental offices have given so little thought to their lighting and merely thrown in a few “cans” and overhead fluorescent fixtures. These do nothing to create great light to work by, to create a memorable experience for patients, or to reduce the practice’s energy footprint. New regulations may help move things forward by eliminating the incandescent bulb from store shelves.
December 31, 2013 marked the last day that 40 and 60 watt incandescent bulbs could be manufactured for sale. This follows the elimination of the 75 and 100 watt bulbs a year ago. Incandescent bulbs only convert 10% of the energy they consume into light. While halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED’s are all still available, we prefer the use of LED’s above all others.
LED’s (light emitting diodes) use only 15% of the energy of a traditional incandescent bulb and less than half of a fluorescent. Plus, they contain no mercury that can wreak havoc with the environment if not properly disposed of. The range of colors (Kelvin) that are available in LED’s is increasing daily along with the amount of light (lumens) they emit. Given this it is easier to create a bright, sunlight true (kelvin above 3500) operatory and a warmer, yellower light (kelvin closer to 2000) in the waiting area.
“But, the fixtures are so expensive!” We hear this a lot, but mainly from contractors and not our clients, and this can be true – to a point. A room that would require nine (9) incandescent or compact fluorescent can fixtures may require as few as five (5) LED ones. So, not only is the dental office spending less on energy to illuminate the space they are spending less up front on total fixture and installation cost. Sounds like a win-win to us!
I’m just back from the Mid-Winter Dental Meeting in Chicago where the convention planning committee met to work on the details for the 2014 Green Dentistry Conference. The 2014 conference will be held 17-19 October at Sundance Resort in Utah.
The 2014 conference is going to be even more exciting than the inaugural event in 2013. The committee has already secured Gary Takacs to do a presentation on creating a green dental team that rocks. If you’ve not heard Gary before, he’s dynamic and dedicated to help dental teams thrive.
The handling of amalgams and their disposal will be another hot topic, as the committee is working to make sure the conference is packed full of hands-on, practical knowledge for improving both the energy efficiency and operation of the green dental office.
Of course, we’ll be doing a presentation on designing the green dental office of your dreams. Isn’t that what every dentist wants?
The conference will have more full-group presentations than last year. Our thought is that this will give attendees more opportunity to share ideas. This will also reduce the walking time between sessions and increase the time spent learning.
If you’ve not yet registered be sure to visit ecodentistry.org and get registered today!
Creating a comfortable consultation room.
Maybe it is just a function of living in the dawn of the 21st century, but technology has reached an ever present point that incorporating it into the design of a dental office just seems natural. By incorporating technology into the design we can improve both the operational efficiency of the office and the patient experience. We can also reduce the energy consumption of the office making the dental practice more environmentally friendly.
We’re working on two projects right now with clients to bring technology to bear in order to improve their patient experience. While the specific details vary slightly between the two clients, the end goal is the same – both clients want to improve their presentation capabilities while meeting with patients. Designing enhanced consultations rooms is really fun, as they pose different challenges than any other room in the dental office. The room needs to be comfortable, safe, soundproof (or at least sound deadening), and technologically easy for the dentist or presenter to maneuver through all of the material they want to cover with the patient. The room needs to create an environment that avoids putting patients in an uncomfortable “weak” position to the dentist so they are not on the defensive when making financial decision related to their care. We see consultation rooms that are so frequently designed that put the dentist in a power position relative to the patient and we wonder just how much work the dentist has to do to close a sale. Of course, seeing is believing, and with the ability to show patients exactly what is going inside their mouths through the use of digital x-rays and intraoral cameras we wonder why anyone would refuse to proceed with a recommended treatment. However, the more comfortable the patient is during the presentation process the more likely they will move forward with the treatment plan.
We mentioned the need to be soundproof, but HIPAA demands that no one walking past the consultation room or standing outside of if should be able to learn anything about what is going on inside. This requires careful design of the room for visual as well as sound protection of the occupants without just creating a dark, depressing cave.
We’ve had push back at times over the amount of square footage required to create a consultation room as many don’t view this as revenue generating space. We beg to differ. If this is the place that larger treatment plans are reviewed and agreed upon, isn’t it important to have a space that more deals are closed than in the past?