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2.03.06 Issue #204  

The Mirror of the Practice
The Patient's Perspective

Walk into a home, a business, a retail store, a physician’s office, and without even realizing it you begin to make judgments about the homeowners, the staff, the care or service provided, and the people associated with the space. The physical environment is a mirror – a reflection – of the quality inside.

Dental offices are no different and the environment has a direct impact on how patients perceive your care and how they respond to your treatment recommendations. When was the last time anyone on the staff sat in the waiting room and in the dental chair? Is the space comfortable or uncomfortable? Do you feel welcome or unwelcome? If you were the patient, would the sites, sounds, and smells put you at ease or cause stress? Perhaps it is clean and orderly but stark and unwelcoming. Maybe it is cozy and warm and patients happily curl up in one of the chairs and just enjoy the space.

From colors, to furniture, to smells, to lighting, the feel of the space affects the temperament of the patients, and acceptance of treatment is always easier in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. While creating the spa-like experience continues to grow in popularity, fashioning a calm and enjoyable environment for the patient doesn’t demand that every practice install waterfalls and offer foot massages. Rather the space can be enhanced merely by looking at the surroundings from the patients’ viewpoint.

When was the last time the office was painted? How is the furniture wearing? Depending on the traffic, an office should have a new paint job approximately every five to seven years, and the walls should be washed periodically. 

Painting the walls is an easy and inexpensive way to give a fresh look to an office and convey a particular feeling in the space. Primary colors red, yellow, and blue can add drama and life to an otherwise dull area. Used well, they provide brightness and visual bounce. A warm yellow infuses a room with happiness. This is an excellent color for a dental office especially if the room does not have a lot of windows. In a room that has dark leather furniture, you might consider painting the walls in a sage green. It provides the room with balance and relaxes the formal leather pieces. Soft blue walls are very soothing to the eye and create a feeling of calm.

Monochromatic schemes do not fight the setting of the room. The one-color room, especially white, is very effective in offices that lean toward an ultramodern, state-of-the-art look. But it also can be cold and stark if other features in the room don’t balance the bright white.

Photographs are low cost, attractive, and can command lasting visual attention. Changed regularly, the effect doesn’t become static and provides ongoing interest. One office chose to take black and white photographs of the area. The pictures were then changed with each season. The patients looked forward to seeing what local pictures would be used for a particular season. Black and white photos are particularly striking on a brightly colored wall such as yellow or blue, and they do not fade as quickly as color snapshots.

Another doctor featured flowers from his yard. He showed the flowers starting to bloom in spring, fully blooming in summer, leaves collecting in fall and snow covering the area in winter. The patients looked forward to seeing the changes. Consider partnering with a photography club at the local high school or college. It will provide a steady stream of visually interesting pieces and provide a venue for amateur artists to showcase their work.

Collections are another means to provide visual pizzazz to the space and give patients something to focus on while waiting for the doctor. Some practices create specific themes in the individual operatories from sports, to children’s movies, to history themes. The options are virtually limitless, and creating the themes can be a fun and interesting project for the staff.

Look at the surroundings from the patient’s eye, from the front door, to the flooring, to the waiting area, to operatories, to the restrooms, to the collection area. The entire environment and physical atmosphere of the space is a direct reflection of the doctor and team. Does this mirror capture your best side?

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McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
Feb. 9-10 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod. Sally McKenzie
Mar. 9 Vancouver, BC Pacific Dental Conference 604-736-3781 Overhead Sally McKenzie
Mar. 24 West Branch, MI Northland Dental Study Club 989-345-7750 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 29 Long Island, NY Suffolk County Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 31 Las Vegas, NV Dental Town Meeting 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
* The McKenzie Company will be exhibiting at this location

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