Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘ergonomics’

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.

Making Your Dental Office More Inclusive

Posted on: November 6th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments
ADA Compliant Smile Branded Dental Restroom Sign

ADA Compliant Smile Branded Dental Restroom Sign

I just saw the coolest thing while in line at Starbucks.  Starbucks now offers a version of the Starbucks Card in Braille for the visually impaired.  The visually impaired have so many challenges and pulling the right card out of their wallet to buy their coffee should not be one of them.  Nor should navigating their dental office.

Proper interior signage in dental office is often an afterthought during the design process.  So many dentists and staff think that because the office isn’t large and they know where everything is that signage isn’t necessary.  They so often forget about their patients, or future patients, that may be visually impaired.  Even though there are codes on the proper placement of interior signage, they are often not followed, I think more out of ignorance than anything else.  Sadly, the Braille on off-the-shelf signage is often incorrect.  Many large manufacturers don’t have anyone that is visually impaired on their staff to check the signs before they are sent out.

We strongly encourage everyone to make sure the design of their dental office is an inclusive as possible by checking the placement of interior signage and the Braille to make sure everything is correct.

Bring Your A Game

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 by James Kuester No Comments

Yesterday I took my mom out for Mother’s Day.  To start our day we went to brunch at the little local breakfast place that I frequent virtually every Sunday when I’m in Indianapolis.  I know almost the entire staff and often feel more like family than a customer while I’m there.  They have amazingly good food and great customer service.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m also very fond of their clean, contemporary décor.  My mom had never been there so I was really looking forward to sharing one of my favorite places with her.

As yesterday was Mother’s Day, I expected the restaurant to be busy.  Well, it is always busy on Sunday mornings, but busier than normal.  What I didn’t expect was for none of the regular staff to be working.  Chris, the manager, is a really nice guy, but there have incidents in the past that made me question his decision-making skills.  While I can appreciate wanting to reward some of one’s best people with a holiday off with their mom’s, I question the wisdom of having the entire, regular Sunday crew absent.  After all, Mother’s Day is a really big deal in the restaurant biz, and often times the only opportunity a restaurant has to make a good impression.

Now, I’m not saying the replacements did a poor job.  They didn’t.  Actually, if I hadn’t known better I would have said they did a good job.  Unfortunately, I know how spectacular of job the regular crew can do and the replacements haven’t had years of working together to generate that seamless flow that propels one’s performance to World-Class status.  Not their fault, but I was disappointed in the experience Mom received yesterday.  She didn’t get this establishment’s A Game.

In a dental office what is the equivalent of a really high-profile, Mother’s Day holiday event?  Off hand, I can’t think of anything.  The closest is when a new patient comes into your practice for the first time.  Undoubtedly, you and your team want to make a good impression so this new patient will tell all his family and friends about his amazing new dentist and will not find an excuse to cancel his next appointment.  To me a dental office team needs to bring their A Game each and every day.  This is hard.  It is a difficult thing to always be “up” and firing smoothly on all cylinders, but that doesn’t reduce its importance.  So, what do you do, as the team leader to help the staff always put their best game face on?  One thing is to provide a work environment in the form of the dental office design that is conducive to a positive work experience.  Make sure the front office is efficiently laid-out and ergonomically designed to reduce work-place fatigue, frustrations, and bottle-necks.  Make sure there is a clean and comfortable place for staff to escape from the rigors of the day occasionally and vent frustrations away from where patients can see or hear.  There will always be challenging patients and giving staff a place to regroup build camaraderie is critical.  Lastly, make sure the operatories themselves are efficiently and ergonomically designed.  Again, this will reduce fatigue, frustrations, and the likelihood of work-place injuries.

One’s dental office design cannot ensure that one’s dental team always brings their A Game to their job each and every day, leadership and coaching play a big role in that, too. However, having a great place to work certainly helps.  If you question this, just think about the demand for newer and better stadiums and arenas at all levels across the country.

When Disaster Strikes!

Posted on: August 29th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

I just got off the phone with a new client whose dental office just suffered a moderate fire and she needs assistance in putting the pieces back together.  The doctor has already contacted her insurance agent and contractor and she and her office staff have already sat down and put together a list of things that they’d like to see changed in the office flow and design.  While her dental office isn’t all that old, she and her staff have already identified things in the original dental office design that don’t quite work the way the office works.  We’re go to take a look at building on the aspects of the original design they love and incorporating the changes they want to see to create an even more efficient, profitable, and pleasant place to work.

What the dentist hadn’t done prior to her fire was prepare a business continuity plan.  We’re big believers that creating a continuity plan before one needs it can safe tremendous time and energy after disaster strikes.  For example, one insurance agent once told me that his business clients that have a business continuity plan tend to be back into their businesses three times faster than those that don’t.  Think about this.  If my client had had a business continuity plan she could be looking at being back in her dental office in 90 days versus the 9 months that she’s currently facing.  Plus, she still hasn’t found a temporary space to set up shop.  This is one of the key elements when creating a bcp – identifying how you’ll continue to see patients while your office is out of commission.

We’re really looking forward to helping this client get back into her space sooner rather than later and helping make enhancements in her dental office’s design along the way.  We also have an opportunity to instill more green design features into the office and make changes that will facilitate her move toward green dentistry.  It is just a shame that the entire process is going to be more stressful and take longer than it could have if a little more advance planning had been made.

The Elements of an Interior Brand

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

We speak frequently about the importance of the dental experience and knowing and defining this experience.  One of the best ways to figure out what your patients are truly experiencing is to have your dental office mystery shopped.  During a mystery shop experienced shoppers visit your website, they call your office, they book an appointment, and they even have a simple cleaning or consultation performed.  All the while they are making notes about what they are experiencing during this process.  A body of shoppers – usually three to six – make a good shop and their notes are compiled into a single report that you can use to help guide improvements to your dental experience.

As Michael Gerber writes about in, “The E-Myth Revisited” all businesses are really in the business of selling an experience and this true for dental office, too.  We go on to believe that the sum total of the dental experience defines your dental office’s brand and is the reason that patients tell their family and friends about you, book return appointments, and don’t cancel their appointments when they have a chance.  There are five elements that go into creating a strong Interior Brand.  They are:

Color, Light, and Texture

Human Interaction

Application of Technology


“Defining Touch”

These five elements work together to create an emotional reaction in the minds of your patients and define your dental practice for them.

Incorporating Universal Design

Posted on: April 20th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

I came across this inspirational story of a courageous woman and her struggles to maintain an independent and fulfilling life after a horrible event rendered her paralyzed.  While the story focuses on redesigning her home for independence, many of the principals she touches on are critical in dental office design for ensuring a quality patient experience.  Not all of your patients have permanent disabilities.  Some are only in a wheelchair or on crutches for a short time.  While the Americans with Disabilities Act dictates design standards for commercial offices, they don’t require retroactive changes and we visit offices all the time that are out of compliance with these basic guidelines.  Additionally, how often does a member of your team miss work due to a “weekend warrior” injury?  Would they be better able to continue to be productive if your dental office was designed in such a way that is was more accessible?

Many thanks to the Universal Design Living Laboratory for bringing us this inspirational story.

A National Demonstration Home in Columbus, Ohio:  The Story Behind the Project

On June 13, 1998 my husband, Mark Leder, and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by going on a bicycle ride. It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky, perfect biking weather. I was riding down the path ahead of Mark, when he heard a loud crack and yelled, “Look over there something is falling!” I glanced back at him and suddenly a 3 1/2 ton tree came crushing down on me, leaving me injured on the bike path. My life was changed in that instant! I was paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury.

As I lay in the hospital, I was angry, scared and mad at the world.  more

What’s in a Sign?

Posted on: April 16th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

ADA Compliant Smile Branded Dental Restroom Sign

What does the signage in your dental office say about you and your dental practice?  Without realizing it the signage you have in your office may be saying more than you know.   In order to be in compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act, signage must also be written in braille and placed in specific locations so patients who are visually impaired can successfully navigate about the office.  Amazingly enough, many of the companies that sell standard signage with braille wording do not employ any visually impaired people, and the braille on their signs is misspelled or just plain wrong.

The signage in your dental office is also another branding opportunity for your practice.  By having custom signage designed and manufactured for your practice, you are able to incorporate your brand’s colors, style, and other features into every sign.  This provides a subtle reinforcement of your unique message throughout your office.  This also gives you an opportunity to make your patients smile.


Note: Küster Dental Office Design utilizes a sign shop that employs primarily visually impaired individuals to make sure that all of the signage designed for our projects is correct.

Cool New Award Winning Design!

Posted on: March 16th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

Red Dot Award winning dental loupes design by Evident

Not all great dental design is restricted to that of the office.  Thanks to our friends at Dentistry.co.uk for bringing us this great story on these award winning loupes.  Evident’s new ExamVision Sports Frames have recently won the Red Dot Design Award for outstanding design quality and trendsetting.

This is not the first time Evident’s great loupes design.  In 2010 the Red Dot jury awarded the ExamVision HD TTL 2.3x for its high quality design and outstanding optical qualities.

Congratulations for Evident and thanks to Dentistry.co.uk for breaking this story!

Hazy Gray Days of Winter

Posted on: March 5th, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

I am not really a big fan of winter.  Oh, I can tolerate the cold, okay.  I actually own some really amazing sweaters that I only get to wear when the temperatures really plummet.  Plus, I do kind of like my collection of different coats and jackets that I have that I’d never get to wear if I lived full time in a warmer climate.  What I hate is all the gray.  Short, gray days, one after another, really drags on my spirits and wears me down.  By the first of March my whole body just aches for Spring and the promise of bright sunshine.

There is one benefit to all of this gray, though, I have to admit.  The softer light allows me to go many days without wearing my sunglasses.  For every bit of six months or more I never step outside without putting sunglasses on.  My blue eyes tend to be very sensitive to all that sunshine that I adore.  The softer light of Winter definitely is easier on my eyes in addition to affecting my mood.

So, what is the interplay of light in a dental office?  Many people, not just me, are positively impacted by bright sunshine.  Their moods are brighter right along with the brighter light.  Also, in order to reduce eye strain for those working, brighter light is necessary.  In designing the lighting for a dental office the goal is to create a space that has abundant light.  By striking a balance between natural and artificial light the space can achieve an energizing, welcoming feeling all year round.  The flip side challenge is to do so without creating glare.  (People look silly wearing their sunglasses inside all day.)  Plus, we want patients to be comfortable while they are receiving treatment and not squinting into the light even though dental practitioners needs plenty of light to provide proper care.

I awoke to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground this morning, so I guess Winter and its softer light is going to be around for a few more weeks, but the lengthening days are starting to hint at warmer temperatures and brighter, more mood lifting sunlight.

The Right Stuff

Posted on: March 3rd, 2012 by James Kuester No Comments

Is your dental office made from the right stuff? The Health Guidelines Revision Committee of the Facility Guidelines Institute, Inc. publishes a list of characteristics that finishes and surfaces in healthcare facilities should have.  These guidelines include dental offices in their list of health facilities.  Unlike hospitals and other large healthcare facilities, dental offices are typically owned by a single practitioner and are often a family affair.  Consequently, dental offices fall more into the realm of small business unlike hospitals or assisted living facilities.  Since they are small businesses they tend to be more approachable for their patients than other forms of healthcare facilities.  They also tend to turn more to family and friends when seeking help for remodeling or decorating a new office space.  The focus tends to be very much on the idea of decorating for a pleasing aesthetic rather than on design for efficient space utilization, regulatory compliance, ergonomic health, or proper material selection.  Products selected or purchased from big box retailers or home improvement stores simply are not designed to withstand the rigors of commercial applications such as dental offices and are not designed to provide the physical characteristics recommended for use in healthcare facilities.  Take a look around your current office space and see how well the products selected match up with the recommendations of the HGRC.  Can you attest to their performance against such standards as ANSI/UL 723 for surface building, NSF/ANSI 51 for food contact, or low VOC emissions as certified by the GREENGUARD® Environmental Institute?  How many of the 18 characteristics do your surface materials possess?