Brought to you by Grace Rizza:
Optimal dental office design isn’t just an important part of a successful, growing practice – it’s essential. A survey by Dental Products Report found that 69% of dentists feel that patients view dental office design as a reflection of their dentist’s competence and commitment to quality assurance.
Optimizing the dental office environment and making it a warm, welcoming, and relaxing place — more along the lines of an upscale day spa instead of an emergency room hospital waiting area — goes a long way to helping patients feel better about going to the dentist, and it also boosts patient engagement and retention, Grace Rizza, the founder of Identity Dental Marketing, explains.
In other words, dentists need to see their office as an asset and extension of their brand and not just a space in which treatments are performed and services are rendered. Dental offices need to market themselves as a high-quality service, which can easily be reflected through the state of the office space.
While beauty may indeed be in the eye of the beholder, there are some fundamental dental office design best practices that dentists can use as a baseline to decide whether their space needs a refresh, a renovation, or in some cases, a total re-invention. These best practices include the following:
Use Mobile Shelving to De-Clutter
Many practices can free up hundreds of square feet of prime, usable office space by replacing bulky filing cabinets with mobile shelving. At the same time, mobile shelving is modern and stylish and improves overall aesthetics.
Today’s patients want — and increasingly expect and demand — to feel a sense of calmness and relaxation when they enter a practice. Mobile shelving, together with other strategies and tactics that reduce clutter and crowding, are part of the solution.
Mobile shelving will assist in marketing your image to your clientele, it provides a lasting impression on your desired target demographic. Through the implementation of mobile shelving, you’re selling your image to your clients, depicting your brand identity, and forging the connection between a clutter-free office and no-nonsense dental work.
Use Natural and Artificial Lighting to Improve
Lighting plays a surprisingly large role in enhancing — or reducing — patient experience. Utilizing light in your favor is a common marketing tactic, and it’s no different when it comes to your dental office. In addition to light being used to market your practice, it also impacts staff efficiency, morale, and even health.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that staff with more exposure to natural light during the workday performed better at work, had higher quality sleep, participated in more physical activity, and enjoyed an overall enhanced quality of life vs. staff with little or no exposure to natural light.
With respect to artificial lighting, ambient lighting should be used in patient waiting areas to enhance comfort and reduce anxiety — yet still enable patients to clearly see — while task and ceiling lighting should be used in staff working areas and operating spaces.
Many practices are switching from fluorescent lighting to LEDs in order to achieve their desired look for clients. The positive effects of utilizing light as a marketing tactic results in happy clients result, customer retention, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Use Design to Establish Intuitive One-Way Traffic Flows
Effective dental office design does more than enhance aesthetics. It also establishes intuitive one-way traffic flows. Staff avoid human traffic jams and reach their destinations faster, practices don’t look chaotic and frenetic, and patients don’t feel anxious about walking down the wrong hallway or into the wrong office or area.
The importance of ensuring that patients don’t get lost and start wandering around cannot be stressed enough. The experience can be daunting and may cause patients to switch to another practice that has a more patient-friendly office design. Get an outside opinion on the design and layout of your office for an unbiased critique.
As is the case with mobile shelving, a clutter-free and simple layout will provide your clients with a sense of calm. This can be used in your marketing efforts to showcase professionalism.
Don’t Neglect Dental Operation Spaces
Some practices do a good job in making their waiting areas warm and welcoming, but they neglect to upgrade operating spaces — which is a recipe for patient anxiety and in some cases, patient churn. Research suggests that an estimated 60% of people have anxiety about going to the dentist, and between 5-10% of people have full-blown dentaphobia, which as the term suggests, is a debilitating fear of going to the dentist.
Create a soothing, comfortable, and patient-centric operating space to reduce patient discomfort and apprehension and promote dialogue. For example, a patient who is interested in tooth whitening or a way to alleviate a gummy smile will be much more open to discussing this in an atmosphere that looks and feels relaxing instead of intimidating, or for some, terrifying.
It’s strongly recommended that dental offices consider specifically designed operating spaces for their desired target demographic. Grace Rizza states that in many cases, it’s strongly advised that offices have separate rooms for children, teenagers, and adults – each with specific decorations and equipment to ease the patient’s experience. and show your clients that you care about their experiences.
Create Separate Entrances for Dentists and Patients
Patients can get confused — and offended — if they see dentists walk into the practice but not immediately get to work. However, this is typically because dentists are working a different shift (i.e., they have arrived at the practice early to prepare), or they may be returning from the hospital, nursing home, mobile clinic, or other professional engagement.
A separate entrance prevents patients from getting the wrong idea and forming a negative perception. If this isn’t practical or feasible, then staff should be proactive and make sure that when dentists arrive at the practice, patients in the waiting room are told why he or she is not immediately seeing patients. Just a few words and a smile can make a big difference.
While you may not view this as a marketing initiative, it most certainly is. Creating separate spaces for dentists and patients will affect things like word-of-mouth marketing, because clients will be happier with the services provided and won’t complain to others about your practice because they didn’t understand why they couldn’t be seen immediately.
Each of the above tactics will provide your dental office with a non-traditional approach to marketing your services. The look, feel, layout, and lighting of your office will leave patients with an impression of your practice. The better that impression, the more likely you’ll retain them as lasting clients and more importantly, the greater the likelihood of word-of-mouth marketing. Implementing any or all of the above will benefit your practice and should be added to your dental office’s marketing strategy.