Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘dental office interior 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.

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.

Ready to Inject Some Bold Color into Your Design?

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by James Kuester 1 Comment

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

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.

Lighting Revolution Underway

Posted on: February 26th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Soon to be history, incandescent bulb

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!

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?

Breathe New Life thru Design

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.  The mantra of “Going Green.”  While we work extensively with clients to incorporate environmentally friendly design into their dental office building and remodeling projects, we rarely see the opportunity to reclaim a really cool, abandoned or underutilized space and breathe new life into it by converting it to a dental office.  Why is this?  This can’t be because dentists aren’t hip and cool.  Some of the hippest people we know are our dental clients.  The answer must be a dearth of really cool properties that are suitable for a dental office conversion.

Whatever the reason we love what this small town in northern Indiana was able to do to give new life to one of its historic properties.

In the lap of luxury at Charley Creek Inn

A restored historic hotel

In the railroad era, most hotels were clustered downtown near the train station for the convenience of travelers. With the arrival of interstates on the outskirts, 70 mile per hour speed limits, and chain motels, many of Indiana’s nineteenth and early twentieth century downtown hotels were demolished.

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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.