Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘dental experience’

A Walk on the Red Carpet

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Roll out the red carpet for your patients.

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.”

Melding Form & Function for a Better Patient Experience

Posted on: February 28th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A beautiful, curving modern design

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.

Using Technology to Enhance the Patient Experience

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Creating a comfortable consultation room.

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?

One Reason 30 Years May Be Too Long

Posted on: February 10th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Does this chair make a good impression?

Does this chair make a good impression?

While at a party over the weekend one of the other guests after finding out that I design dental offices said, “I’ve been going to the same dentist for thirty years now, and he’s not updated anything in his office this entire time except putting up new wallpaper, once about 15 years ago.”  Really? After hearing this I wondered what his book of business was like.  My guess is that the patient base is dwindling and there are very few new patients coming to the practice.

I fully realize that once one finds a dentist they like, they’ll most likely stick with them through thick-and-thin. New people to an area when deciding to choose a dentist will keep looking when they see a tired, thread-bare office that hasn’t been updated in thirty years.  Patients want to feel confident that they are going to receive good oral health care when they choose a dentist.  They want one they can trust not to cause pain or to oversell services.  The state of the dental office is one of the key criteria people use to judge the quality of a practice.  If the office hasn’t been updated in decades odds are the equipment, techniques, and skills of the dental team haven’t been updated, either.  Dentistry is an every advancing profession, with new technologies and breakthroughs, and patients are fully aware of this.  In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, patients expect change and improvements and a stagnant office design does not communicate this.

So, why does one care if the book of business is diminishing?  Dentistry is a business like any other and at some point the dentist is going to want to retire.  What’s the exit strategy?  If he’s just going to turn out the lights and walk away then he doesn’t need to worry about the size of the patient base.  He can just keep serving the patients he has until they all age out or move away.  However, if he’s looking to sell the practice a thriving patient base is one of the key assets the business has.  Without one finding a willing buyer may be a challenge.

Attention to Details

Posted on: February 7th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
The wrong color stands out

The wrong color stands out

We’re working on a dental office design project right now and are struggling to find just the right color match between the floor tiles, countertop, and backsplash tile.  Since the client really loves the floor tile, it is the backsplash tile that is being problematic.  I’m sure, as a dentist you can relate.  When working to build a new crown for a patient getting the enamel color just right so it matches the teeth around it is critical.  If it is a shade or two off the tooth will stand out like a sore thumb and everyone will notice.  The same is true in design.  If something isn’t just right, the overall effect will be marred, and consequently, the impact from the design will be diminished.

There are multiple goals when creating a new design for a dental office:

  • What is the branding message the practice is trying to send?
  • What is the patient experience that the practice wants to be remembered for?
  • How can the practice become more productive and efficient through better space planning and design?
  • How can repetitive use injuries be reduced or avoided through better ergonomic design?
  • How can the practice use energy and water more effectively and efficiency through green design?
  • How can the practice make more productive use of its space through the application of technology?

These are just of a few of the questions that we ask our clients and ourselves on each project we work on. Hitting a homerun on all or most of these requires careful attention to details – just like getting the color right on a patient’s tooth.

Getting Your Practice Name to “Go Viral”

Posted on: February 5th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

Did you watch the Super Bowl last Sunday evening?  If so, did you happen to see the Coca-Cola “America the Beautiful” ad?  If not, the ad features a wide range of diverse people all singing “America the Beautiful” with sweeping vistas from across the country playing across the background.  At the end the epitomes Coca-Cola bottle spins onto the screen.  While I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with Coca-Cola other than perhaps to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the people that drink their products, the ad seems to have been very effective in generating a lot of attention.  People all over Facebook, Twitter, and the news networks were talking about it both Sunday night and all day on Monday.  Since the goal of advertising is to get people to remember your company’s name, product, or both, I’d say Coca-Cola and their ad agency scored a hit with this one.

Having the name of one’s dental practice “go viral” and be repeated over and over again by patients is the goal in designing an exceptional patient experience.  I’m qualifying the experience as exceptional as I don’t believe any dental practice really wants the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that goes along with offering a poor experience.  I’ve read that patients are ten times more likely to tell friends and family about a poor experience than they are a positive one, so one must be striving for excellence in the experience they offer if talk about the dental experience is going to “go viral” like Coke’s Super Bowl ad.  The design of the dental office is one of the key foundations of crafting an exceptional patient experience.  The colors, light, and texture all play together to set the stage for the human interaction and treatment that patients receive.

TV’s – They’re Everywhere, But Are They A Force for Good?

Posted on: February 3rd, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Over the fireplace is a favorite location for TV's

Traditional wood-burning fireplace converted to gas

Sitting watching The Big Game last night made me realize how important to our society televisions have become.  They’re everywhere.  There is hardly a bar or restaurant that I go into that doesn’t have at least one TV monitor hanging on a wall somewhere.  Walking through the airport they are everywhere. So, it only makes sense that these devices have also become a fixture in most dental offices.

We agree that the TV monitor is an important tool for promoting the dental health of one’s patients.  In operatories they can provide dual duty by providing an entertainment stream for patients while waiting between exam steps and when integrated with the dental office network a great educational and sales tool to really show the patient what is going on inside his/her mouth.  In consultation rooms they are incredibly valuable sales tools for the very same reason.  Who isn’t going to sign up to have oral work done when they are shown the true state of their health right in front of them on a screen?  Oral cameras, digital x-rays, and touch-screen monitors make communicating with patients easier than ever.  Consequently, they are great assets in helping patients move forward with treatment.  Gone are the days of, “You really need this.  Trust me.”

Waiting Areas and Reception have been a venue for TV’s and monitors for years it seems, and we’re definitely guilty of incorporating them into our clients’ dental office designs.  Unfortunately, so often we find these used to display endless streams of videos showing examples of poor oral health and discussions of treatment options.  The Waiting Area is not the place for these types of videos.  They only serve to stress and gross patients out and do nothing to help them to relax and look forward to their exam.  Who really wants to sit in a room with pictures of gum disease streaming endlessly overhead?

The judicious use of televisions and monitors can greatly enhance the patient experience and lead to increased sales and referrals, but the wrong kind of content will only serve to make patients uncomfortable and undermine the positive aspects of the dental practice.  Before slapping a monitor on a wall somewhere give some thought to its role in enhancing the patient experience and improving the bottom-line.

Roasting by an Open Fire

Posted on: January 29th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

When it is cold and blustery outside patients need something to help warm them up.  One feature that is really nice to add to every dental office design is a functional fireplace.  The fireplace can be traditional wood, gas, electric, or gel and there are various design considerations to each.

Personally, there is nothing quite the same as a traditional wood-burning fireplace for the warmth, aroma, and ambience.  However, they tend to be messy, require cleaning, and introduce greater safety concerns from popping logs and such.  Probably not the best option for most dental offices.

The cost of running a gas line may make this option less attractive, but it is an easy and mess free way to achieve instant warmth and ambience.  We suggest going with an electric ignition for added ease with starting.

The electric option just keeps getting better and better.  The higher end models are looking more and more realistic in the design of the “flame.”  Paired with a blower fan, they will put off heat just like a “real” fireplace.  They tend to be safer for a dental office waiting room as they typically don’t get as hot to the touch as other options, so the chance of a patient accidentally getting burned is reduced.

We love the gel fireplaces for the great design options they open up.  They don’t necessarily give the same warmth and radiance as other options, they definitely provide the visual appeal.  They are easy to maintain and operate and have few safety concerns.

The key in introducing a fireplace into one’s dental office design is to help create a warm, welcoming environment that enhances the patient experience, so the fireplace needs to not look like an afterthought.  This feature, however, will warm staff as well as patients giving them more reasons to refer their friends and family to the practice.

Here’s a few fireplaces we’ve designed for our clients:

Smile by Design fireplace

Electric fireplace with blower and remote control

Traditional wood-burning fireplace converted to gas

Traditional wood-burning fireplace converted to gas

Electric fireplace in corner of waiting room.

Electric fireplace in corner of waiting room.

A Single Season Convenience that Boosts the Patient Experience

Posted on: January 27th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
A decorative snow grate

A decorative snow grate

Indianapolis normally isn’t a very snowy place, but occasionally Ol’ Man Winter decides to remind us that we live in a northerly climate and hit the city with a winter full of plenty of snow.  This year happens to be one of those years.  One of the design features that we’re partial to is one typically only seen in much snowier areas, but we think it makes sense anywhere that snow can be a regular occurrence.  This is the snow grate at entrances to buildings.

We just hate the mess that comes from trying to rid one’s shoes and boots of snow.  Winter can be beautiful, but slimy, slushy snow mess is not. The simple little snow grate gives patients and guests a great way to remove most of the snow from their shoes and boots prior to entering the dental office.  This also helps keep the entryway and office cleaner so there is less mopping required.  Keeping a cleaner, neater office and adding small conveniences such as the snow grate enhances the patient experience and gives your patients another reason to refer their friends and family to your dental practice.

Hang it Up

Posted on: December 9th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
Hang it up

Hang it up

After my bought with poor customer service while traveling last week coupled with the onset of cold, snowy weather, I’ve really been thinking a lot about the reception dental office provide to their patients when they first arrive at the office.  I really believe the first few moments when a patient arrives at the dental office are critical to setting the tone for the whole visit.  If something happens to upset them, they’ll not go into the rest of the visit in a good mood.  For example, if they are not greeted warmly and with a smile by the reception staff.  Or, if there is no place to hang their coat or place their boots.  The first is a training issue, the second is a design issue.

Unless your dental office is located where it is sunny and warm all the time, your patients probably come to the office with coats at least half the year.  From now until April those coats tend to be heavy and bulky and are shed as soon as they arrive inside.  Affording a place in the design to hang them up not only is courteous to the patients but also keeps them from cluttering up the Waiting Room with them draped over chairs.  We also are aware a lot of patients are wary of leaving their coat in a closet and out of sight during their exam, so having hooks or hangers in each operatory is also a good idea.  Again, this keeps the coats up and out of the way and keeps your dental office looking neat and tidy.  A patient walking in for her appointment is most likely going to have a poor emotional response if she first walks into the office and finds the entire Waiting Room full of discarded coats all over the chairs.