Küster Dental Blog

Posts Tagged ‘office 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.

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.

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.)

Flowers – A Sure Sign of Spring

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

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.

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.”

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.

There’s More to a Shade than Making Windows Beautiful

Posted on: January 31st, 2014 by James Kuester No Comments
Mermet E-Screen Shade

Mermet E-Screen Shade

Almost every office window has some form of window treatment on it, and in most offices these treatments are more likely to be a form of window shade rather than drapes.  The shade, however, has a bigger role in life than merely looking good.  The window shade needs to play an important role in helping reduce glare and solar heat gain.  Did you know that the US Department of Energy estimates that buildings use 38% of all energy in the country and 67% of all electricity? Just imagine what a positive impact this will make on our environment if the total energy usage can be reduced by 5, 10, or 15 percent?  Not to mention the positive impact this will make on your dental practice’s bottom-line through lower utility bills.  Plus, if you’re trying for LEED certification, the right shade can help garner important Indoor Environmental Quality credits.

“But, I have a wonderful view out my windows! I don’t want to block that view,” you say.  Well, there are ways to specify one’s shades and still reduce glare and solar heat gain and still keep the view.  For example, a darker material will reduce the glare and improve the visibility through the shade, even when the Percent Open or amount of holes in the fabric is small.  A lighter color fabric reduces the Solar Heat Gain but has a higher amount of glare.  So, if you have a fabulous view out the windows of your operatories you’ll probably want to choose a darker fabric for the shades so offer your patients the best view and least amount of glare.

There are some new high-tech fabrics that push the envelope of solar management technology further. For example, now one can choose shade fabrics with metal on the outside that help further reduce solar heat gain.  While there are aesthetic considerations when one views these materials from the exterior of the building, the energy savings can be worth the investment.

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.