Written by Randy Ligh, DDS, MA, and Hillary Gerber Saturday, 31 May 2003 19:00
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, first century bc, was a Roman scholar and architect who was the author of the celebrated treatise “De architectura,” based on earlier Greek works and his own experience.1 This treatise continued to have great influence on the Renaissance. He said, “There are three key qualities necessary for good architecture: structure, commodity, and delight.”2
|Figure 1.1. Gratification modes by occupation|
|Figure 1.2. Purchase preference by occupation|
WHOSE DESIGN PREFERENCES? YOURS OR YOUR PATIENTS’?
Office design has traditionally focused on the quality of care for the patient, the comfort and functionality of the work environment for the doctor and staff, the image statement for the practice, and how the design serves as a tool for economic success.3 These are all basic concepts that are important to a practice. However, if the focus is on a generic patient without regard to the demographics, psychographics, and socioeconomic and cultural influences, your design will not help to create a bond with your patients. This bond stems from what their conscious and unconscious needs are and the ability of your practice to accommodate these needs. If you don’t strive to create this bond, you might alienate your patients, causing them to find a provider that better understands them and their needs and preferences.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHAT YOUR PATIENTS WANT
To understand what your patients want, you must first find out who your patients are. A great place to start is by determining your central demographic model (CDM)—your ideal patient. This includes information such as your patient’s age, gender, occupation, income, employment status, education, marital status, family status, ethnicity, and physical characteristics. This also includes information such as where your patients come from; ie, your trading area. All of this information can be collected very easily using the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Internet, the Chamber of Commerce, state and local governments, local newspapers, library reference sections, etc. You may also elect to collect this information yourself in the form of questionnaires, raffles, and through your patient records.
HOW TO CREATE AN OFFICE DESIGN THAT YOUR PATIENTS WANT
Your office design includes elements of look, touch, and feel. It’s the way your patients experience your business and your services. So, now that you have a better understanding of who your patients are, now that you have more clarity about your CDM and CPM, it’s important that you design your office to appeal to the needs and preferences of these patients. Consider the following when designing your office.
|Figure 1.3. Color and shape guide (US culture only)|
The Location and Surrounding Area
The location of your facility can have a significant impact on your office design. Your patients, depending on which market you are servicing, will have location preferences. Some might prefer a rural setting; others a more urban setting. Some useful things to consider when evaluating your current location, or when considering another location, are the following: Is your office easy to see? What does your sign look like? Is parking easy to find? What is the neighborhood like?
The Facility and Its Environment
Your facility includes your waiting room, treatment rooms, reception desk, and restrooms—all areas in your facility that your patients (and your employees) come in contact with. Some useful things to consider when evaluating your current facility, or when considering another facility, are the following: Is the temperature comfortable? What does your facility smell like—have you considered the impact of aromatherapy? What does your office sound like? Is your office neat and clean? What is the lighting like? What color are the walls? Is there art? If so, what kind of art?4 Have you considered “play theory” (in a pediatric office) as a means of focusing activity during a child’s stay?5,6
The Impact of Shapes and Colors
The impact of shapes and colors can have an important influence on the mental state and overt behavior of your patients.7,8 Different shapes and colors have a different impact on your patients’ perceptions. There are 4 characteristics that you must consider when choosing shapes and colors for your practice: (1) Visibility. Some shapes and colors are more easily noticed, more easily catch someone’s attention; (2) Retention. Certain shapes and colors are more easily remembered than others; (3) Preference. Research shows that some shapes and colors are more appealing than others; and (4) Association. Every shape and color has the potential to stimulate the conscious or unconscious mind of your patients. Patients can have both positive and negative associations with shapes and colors.4 (See Figure 3 for a sampling of colors and shapes.)
TOWARD SUCCESS AND BEYOND
The success of your practice depends on your ability to incorporate your patients’ CDM or CPM into your office design as well as in all other areas of your practice. We have provided you with some tools that will help you determine the perceptions, behavior, likes, and dislikes of your patients, and to successfully translate all of this information into a compelling office design that addresses the unique needs of your patients.
- Webster’s Dictionary. Encyclopedia Edition. New York, NY: Lexicon Publications; 1987:1101.
- Conversation with Mitchell Goldstein, AIA, Design for Health, Santa Cruz, Calif, Sept. 10, 2002.
- Marvin C, Smith R. Orthodontic Office Design: A Guide to Successful Design of the Orthodontic Office. St. Louis, Mo: American Association of Orthodontics; 1996:13.
- The E-Myth Mastery Program, a comprehensive business consulting program developed by E-Myth Worldwide, Santa Rosa, Calif.
- Conversation with Lance Crannell, M. Arch, associate professor, Department of Technology, San Jose State University College of Engineering, Calif, Nov. 7, 2002.
- Sutton-Smith B. The spirit of play. In: Fein G, Rivkin M, eds. The Young Child at Play: Reviews of Research. Vol 4. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children; 1991.
- Wexner LB. The degree to which colors (hues) are associated with mood tones. J Applied Technology. 1954;
- Sinofsky ER, Knirk FG. Choose the right color for your learning style. instructional Innovation Journal. 1981;March:17-19.
Dr. Ligh is a practicing pediatric dentist in San Jose, Calif. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and a special consultant with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. He can be reached at (408) 286-2940.
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