It is this simple: Your patients have no means of evaluating the quality of the services you provide. They have not experienced a professional dental curriculum, and therefore are ill-equipped to evaluate occlusion, interproximal contacts, margins, contour, etc. Your patients must base their decisions regarding quality on other less tangible factors. They know rapidly if they like your staff, if they like you, if you and your staff like each other, or if friction exists within your team.
Figures 1 and 2. Which office better reflects the quality of your services?
|Figures 3. Make certain your community is aware of your project.||
Figure 4. Marketing by leaving your lights on.
|Figures 5. Is dental anatomy the appropriate image for your practice?|
Although it is often difficult to admit, it is human nature to “judge a book by its cover.” The appearance of your building (whether freestanding or leasehold space) speaks volumes about your level of professionalism and quality of care. Architecture sends a strong message to the world. More often than not, potential patients make judgments regarding the quality of your services prior to entering your office. It has been said, “you have only one chance to make a good first impression.” Although most of us would not argue this point when it comes to grooming or a firm handshake, the first impression made by your office is all too often overlooked. Your facility is the physical representation of the quality of your services. Imagine the evaluation process a potential patient may make when seeking a dentist who will provide the finest care for them and their family. If you were new in town, seeking a dentist, which office would you choose (Figures 1 and 2)? Which office would you and your staff prefer to leave home for each day, proud to be a part of your practice? Which office will better attract prospective staff members?
|Figures 6 and 7. Create a consistent practice identity with signage that compliments the design of your office.|
|Figures 8 and 9. Your prospective patients’ perception of the quality of your services is based on factors other than the actual quality of your dentistry.|
When your office is completed, also consider how you will identify your practice with signage. Once again, put yourself in your patients’ shoes. What image would you prefer your patients visualize when they think of your practice? As dentists, we are immersed in “dental anatomy” from the very beginning of our dental training. We meticulously study the three-dimensional configurations of every tooth, and its roots, inside and out. Does a molar, with roots attached, necessarily translate into the symbol patients perceive as most representative of your service quality (Figure 5)? Most often an extracted molar is a symbol of a dental failure, not a positive mental association. A sign that communicates your practice as a dental professional is most effective when planned in harmony with your building (Figures 6 and 7).
Creating a new office is the largest single investment you will make in your business. Allow adequate time to make the right decisions that will impact your practice positively for the rest of your practice life. From the onset of planning, be sure everything will function in the way you desire. If it does, you may never have to build again. If it doesn’t, your costly errors will haunt you continuously, affecting the efficiency of your practice and the morale of your entire office team.
Dr. Unthank is a registered professional architect and dentist, and speaks both “languages” fluently. His experience and in-depth knowledge of these disciplines provides him with an empathetic understanding of what constitutes successful dental office design. Please visit Dr. Unthank’s website at www.unthank.com.
Ms. True is director of interior design for Unthank Design Group. Geri blends issues of aesthetics and ergonomics, environmental psychology, and product knowledge. She has been a contributor to publications in the dental and interior design fields, and has been recognized nationally for her involvement in the American Society of Interior Designers.