Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘dental design’

Accessibility Along the Wine Trail

Posted on: June 18th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

This past Memorial Day Weekend I went with friends on a tour of wineries in Western Wisconsin along the Great River Road that runs alongside the Mississippi River. We tasted some good and some not-so-good wine, and we had a great time visiting the shops that are abundant in the small towns all along the trail.

As we toured in and out of the shops and restaurants I couldn’t help noticing the wide variety of interpretations of the American’s with Disabilities Act implementations there were in regards to restroom accessibility. The ADA is fairly straightforward in its guidelines as to what makes for compliant design and what does not. Here are some of my favorites from our trip.

A towel bar doesn't make a good ADA grab bar

A towel bar doesn’t make a good ADA grab bar

One – a towel bar does not a grab bar make.   Towel bars are not the same diameter as grab bars and consequently are not as easy to grip if one needs some added stability. Additionally, towel bars are designed to hold towels, not the weight of a person, so even if this one happened to be installed with proper backing behind the drywall, chances are it would give way if someone actually used it for support.

Two – installing at a diagonal does not count as two bars. The ADA requires both horizontal and vertical supports around a toilet. Additionally, the horizontal support needs to extend down one side and across the back of the toilet. Installing the bar at an angle does not meet the requirement for both horizontal and vertical support. Nice try, but no.

 

 

 

Angled mounting doesn't count for two.

Angled mounting doesn’t count for two.

As in the first example I’m curious as to how well this bar would hold up mounting into the rough stone of an old barn if someone actually needed the support. Neither the mounting bolts nor the bar itself struck me as too stable.

Three – this restroom gets an “A”. Not only have they installed all of the proper bars, they are installed in the proper locations with distances that meet ADA guidelines for spacing from floor to bar and toilet to wall. Of course, they also get brownie points for designing a nice looking restroom while they were at it.

 

 

This is how an ADA compliant bathroom is supposed to look.

This is how an ADA compliant bathroom is supposed to look.

When was the last time you were in the public restroom at your dental office? Take a look and see just how whether all of the proper bars are installed and in compliance. Adding bars is a fairly easy thing to do and will make patients with disabilities dental experience much better should they need to use the facilities while there.

Design for Accessibility

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Mom & Dad

Mom & Dad

I recently traveled with my aging parents to my sister’s wedding on Chesapeake Bay. It was a lovely weekend and everyone had a great time, yet while I see my parents every week, living and traveling with them for four days reinforced to me just how much care we, as designers, need to take in designing for accessibility.

My parents are both in their mid-80’s and I think they get around pretty well. They are both in good health, yet do suffer from typical effects of aging such as diminished hearing, vision, balance, and mobility. Consequently, traveling to unfamiliar places poses a challenge. They don’t hear instructions by TSA agents, hotel clerks, and restaurant servers well when there is a lot of background noise. They get tripped up when floors and transitions are not smooth or stairs are of an uneven height. They don’t immediately identify signs and wayfinding clues. Watching my parents navigating unfamiliar terrain made me realize just how much work we have cut out for us in creating designs for our clients that work to diminish these challenges.

The elderly are not the only ones that need good accessibility design. Anyone who has ever broken a leg or ankle or for whatever reason was restricted to crutches or a wheelchair can tell you just how challenging getting around can be. Entrance ramps that are supposed to provide accessibility are often at the wrong angle and require tremendous effort to mount. Restrooms that do not follow ADA accessibility guidelines are next to impossible to navigate alone. Most operatories are designed for the efficiency of the staff and do not take the ability of the patient at all. Good signage in dental offices is almost non-existent. Patients of all ages can benefit from better accessibility design. Our job as dental office designers it to make sure our clients’ practices excel in providing it.

Gotta Know How to Smile

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Smile

Smile

There is a woman that works as a barista at my local Starbucks that makes me cringe whenever she is on the cash register when I come in. Occasionally, as I sit contemplating my next blog post, I’ll watch her and the other baristas as they hustle and work hard to serve up the various coffee beverages and keep the morning line moving. This particular woman probably hustles more than most of her coworkers. She is never idle. If there is a lull in traffic she is immediately looking to see what needs to be done next and jumps to it. There is no question that she takes her job seriously and puts tremendous effort into trying to do it well. However, she doesn’t seem to know how to interact with customers.

Being a barista requires one to interact with the customers. A significant part of the coffeehouse culture, and an area where Starbucks normally shines, is that they have consistently warm, friendly baristas that learn customers’ names, take time in spite of crushing lines to banter with them, and always provide service with a smile. This particular woman doesn’t seem to be able to do this. Perhaps it is her personality. Perhaps the manager has not bothered to coach her on her demeanor. Whatever the case, she is diminishing the coffee house experience with her gruff manner and lack of rapport with customers.

We see this same problem when performing Patient Experience Evaluations for clients. Front line personnel that are gruff and terse with patients have an immediate dampening effect on patient experience ratings. Patients want to be treated with respect and dignity and not like they are an annoying interruption to the person’s day. A warm smile and greeting go a long way toward helping to reduce patient anxiety.

For some people learning to smile, laugh, and engage with patients does not come naturally, especially while under pressure. This behavior requires training and coaching and consistent reinforcement until it becomes second nature. We believe everyone has the ability to learn to be warm and engaging if properly coached. As an employer one doesn’t have to hire for “type” – nor should they. But, one does need to understand the roll doing the entire job right plays in creating a positive patient experience and not just the technical proficiency portion of the job description.

Stanford Kicks the Coal Habit

Posted on: May 12th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Smoke Stacks and Carbon Emissions

Smoke Stacks and Carbon Emissions

Stanford University’s Board of Trustees voted to divest the university endowment from coal. Following a strategy used to fight apartheid, a student group led a campaign against the carbon rich fossil fuel, and they are hoping this catches on with other large institutional investors. Coming in the same week that President Obama announced a renewed battle to fight climate change, one can only hope that Stanford truly is at the forefront in the fight against coal.

The odds of a large move against coal are not good. Europe has fallen in love with inexpensive coal from the U.S. As countries such as China and India continue to push their economies forward, they are going to need more energy and not less. With the U.S. on a new energy independence high, weaning the country off its low-cost fossil fuel isn’t going to be easy. Cleaning our air is going to have to be a global initiative and not a “one country going alone” approach.

As small business owners, dentists can certainly do their part by critically analyzing their practices and reducing energy consumption at every turn. As homeowners we can all make strides in reducing carbon by reducing our energy consumption, too. As communities, generating electricity from natural gas produces half the carbon emissions as burning coal. Along with recycling and water usage reduction programs we can all contribute in making great strides toward reducing the total amount of carbon emissions. We can also all join together in encouraging other large, institutional investors to divest from fossil fuels, and coal in particular. I remember when the world banded together and divested from South Africa and the sweeping change that brought. Let’s join Stanford’s Board of Trustees and make this a global change. We’ll all feel better – literally.

You Have them at “Hello”

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
"Hello!"

“Hello!”

Remember the old adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression? Well, we may not have as long as we’ve thought to make that impression. A recent research project has found that we humans form impressions of people from the very first “hello.” Michelle Trudeau on NPR’s “Morning Edition” reported on the research this past week. The way men and women say hello immediately causes us to form instinctive judgments on how trustworthy the speaker is, along with a host of other important attributes that were very important in keeping humans alive over the years.

Think about your dental office and how the receptionist answers the phone or says “hello” to people when they first walk in. I’ve always been shocked at how many offices I walk into to be greeted gruffly or with an irritated tone – like I’m interrupting their day. During our Patient Experience Evaluations this is one of the things we notice right away. If that first word out of the greeter’s mouth isn’t warm, friendly, and welcoming it sets a bad tone for the entire visit. The entire dental team has an uphill battle at that point to salvage the experience and send the patient away happy. Luckily, research has also shown that the way the patient is sent out the door has a very strong impact on how the entire experience is remembered.

Why set the dental team up for this much effort when proper training can avert potential disaster? Evidently, the famous line from Jerry Maquire, “You had me at hello,” isn’t all that far off.

The Time is Now

Posted on: May 7th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
The Earth as seen from space

The Earth as seen from space

President Obama is on a roll this week announcing he’s making battling climate change a major priority for the remainder of his term. All we can say is, “It’s about time!” We don’t know about anyone else, but we’re tired of hearing and reading about all of the political back-and-forth over whether climate change is real or isn’t real. The science from what we’ve seen is pretty convincing that climate change is real and happening now. Just think about Katrina, Sandy, mud slides, and droughts. That all seems pretty real to us. We also don’t believe there is any point in arguing whether humans are the cause or not. That is a pointless argument. Carbon is the cause and humans are the only species on the planet that has the capacity to deal with rising carbon emissions. If we don’t act, who will – the dolphins or the rhinos?

Buildings amount for approximately 39% of all carbon emissions. This includes every house, office building, and factory. We were taught in accounting classes that if one wants to cut expenses always start with the single largest line item on the Income Statement. Well, guess what? A line item that amounts to 39% is a pretty large item and one that everyone has a hand in since we all live and work in a building of one form or another. There’s no opportunity to push the responsibility for change off on “the factories.”

We can all attack this problem by reducing the energy use at home and at work. Replace all lighting with LED that uses a mere 15% of the energy of an incandescent bulb. We can replace all water faucets and fixtures with Water Sense fixtures that use less water and are more efficient. We can all make sure we have plenty of insulation in the walls and ceilings of our homes and offices. (Okay, if we rent office space this might be a stretch, but we can seek out offices that are located in LEED certified buildings.) We can all recycle. If we’re a dentist we can join the Eco Dentistry Association and make our practices more efficient by becoming Green Doc Certified.  If we’re an architect, engineer, or designer we can design to LEED standards whether our clients ask us to or not. Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.

Let’s stop pointing fingers and passing-the-buck. Let’s join together and get serious about making change for the good and halting the effects of climate change. We have great faith in the capacity of mankind for great change and great good. For our own survival and that of every other species on the planet (except for cockroaches as we think they can survive anything), we have a rare moment to make history.

What Sets Your Dental Office Apart?

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A three legged stool - dentistry, service, design

A three legged stool – dentistry, service, design

What sets your dental practice off from all of the competition?  What is your unique value proposition that keeps patients coming back and motivates them to refer their family and friends to your door?  “We provide great oral healthcare,” you say.  “But,” I challenge, so do the guys down the street – and across town, and in the next township over.  I would say that merely providing really good healthcare is not enough to brand differentiate your dental practice from all of the competition. Of course, this is something that every dental practice should be striving for. In fact, I’d contend they should be striving to provide exceptional oral healthcare. However, in an environment where dentistry is viewed as a commodity there has to be more to your brand beyond exceptional care.  The entire dental experience must be exceptional.

The hard part of building a business is in identifying that unique element that sets it apart from all of its competition.  We call this the “defining touch” of the business.  Once identified the business must have a specific plan on how to shape, hone, and refine this touch into the sharp sword of excellence that will give it an edge over the competition.  It is not enough to be good at one does.  One must strive for excellence in order to attract new patients, retain the ones you’ve got, and build a practice that flourishes.  Of course, we firmly believe that the design of the dental office is integral to this defining element and that success cannot be achieved without weaving the design of the physical space and the design of the patient service together into a symbiotic whole.  All three legs of the dentistry, service, and office design “stool” must be strong if it is going to support a winning team.

How Do You Know Whether Your Office is a Hit?

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

HandsClappingYou go to a show.  You thoroughly enjoy it.  So do all the people around you.  At the end you, along with everyone else in the theatre erupt into enthusiastic applause and leap to your feet.  As you leave the theatre you can’t stop talking about how wonderful the performance was, which were your favorite scenes – your favorite lines.  The next day you’re still talking about it to everyone you meet.  The sow was obviously a hit.

But, you run a dental office, not a theatre troupe.  How do you know if your dental practice is a “hit” with your patients?  You’ve just spent good money remodeling the practice after taking over from the retiring, senior associate.  Was that money well spent?  Have you achieved your goal of providing an exceptional patient experience?  Well, are your patients talking about you?

How would you know whether your patients are talking about you?  One of the first ways is to be tracking referrals.  The time to start tracking both patient referrals and appointment cancellations is before you embark on your remodel or some other major change in the practice operations.  The more baseline data you have the more certain you’ll be of the results after the change.  If you’ve been successful in improving the patient experience you should see referrals go up and cancellations fall.

You can also survey your patients asking them about their experience.  Again, if you can do this before the change doing so afterwards will give you comparative data.  Having a third-party survey your patients is probably a better choice than having someone from the office call.  Patients are more likely to be honest with a third-party than someone in the office they know – especially if they have a complaint.  Email surveys are also good as they are less expensive and you can reach out to every patient that you have an email address for.

Then there is social media.  You can look to see what your patients are saying on your Facebook page.  You can build quick Facebook surveys that can help you ask specific questions about changes in the practice and solicit responses.

As Lady Gaga says, “[we] live for the applause.” In the case of a dental office hit, the applause is a vibrant, growing practice.

Sanitary Flooring Options for the Dental Office

Posted on: March 19th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
terrazzo floor w cove (2)

Terrazzo floor with seamless cove base

Do you need a floor that is easy to clean and easy to keep microbial free?  One of the best ways to insure both features is to get one that is seamless.  There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.  One if through a rolled vinyl material that has welded seams where needed.  Another is through using terrazzo.

There are rolled vinyl products available now that contain recycled content and provide antimicrobial properties.  Some can be seamed to a cove base to create a smooth, corner free transition from floor to wall that is easy to clean and prevents dirt attracting crevices at the edges.

This same seamless cove transition is possible using terrazzo where the base and flooring can be poured together to provide a great microbe free surface.  Terrazzo is another green option as it can readily contain recycled materials as part of the aggregate and is produced locally to the project.

Especially in surgery suites where sanitation is of added importance we recommend either of these approaches to achieving a great looking, low maintenance, sanitary floor.

Always On the Lookout

Posted on: March 17th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A common concrete trough sink.

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.

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.)