Ensure your practice environment provides a pleasant experience

Ensure your practice environment provides a pleasant experience

26 Jan 2011

Do you sometimes feel there’s not enough room to swing a cat in your practice? 

Chances are, every member of the dental team spends at least a third of their working day coping with the stress of a confined space, with inevitable consequences for efficiency, inter-personal and patient relations and collective morale.

The effect of even the most welcoming smile is blunted for the patient if the practice presents a cramped, unappealing appearance, and maximising the spatial potential of every area is vital to enable a practice to expand or fully exploit the benefits of the latest equipment.

A floor plan which was adequate, perhaps even ideal, in the 1980s is unlikely to be fit-for-purpose in the new, digital age of the 21st Century. It is equally relevant that patients today often regard themselves as consumers, and their expectations have risen. 

Layout and colour schemes

Even the simplest aspects of a surgery, such as the colour scheme, can have a huge impact on those working within it.

Indeed, colour can be a powerful design element. It can set a mood, attract attention or make a statement. It can energise, for instance, a strong red colour is thought to raise the blood pressure and so should be avoided in the surgery, or it can calm through using soothing shades of blue and neutral tones. By selecting the right colour scheme, you can create an elegant ambiance of tranquillity to put your patients at ease during treatment.

The layout of your surgery is also essential and needs to be conducive to your staff and give the patient a pleasant experience. It is commonly accepted in office environments that the arrangement of furniture and proper use of the available space can increase productivity and increase the morale of workers. Therefore, the surgery layout not only needs to be ergonomic and facilitate the individual practitioners needs, but the use of space also needs to promote a sense of professionalism whilst encouraging patient dentist interaction. Crowded and cluttered environments can leave a patient feeling stressed and agitated and also inhibit your ability to work.

Refurbishment options

A major part of the problem is time. To paraphrase John Braine in Room at the Top: “Time is like a loan from the bank; you can never have it when you need it most.” Practice principals are very often the clinicians on whose activities the business depends, and taking a break from treating patients to investigate refurbishment options is neither cost effective nor practical. And yet, the ideal practice, which is efficient, hygienic, and offers patients a genuinely friendly atmosphere to prompt a willingness to return and to recommend is always achievable.  

Delegating the responsibility for refurbishment decisions to another member of staff is likely to be counter-productive, since he or she will already be fully-engaged with servicing the patients or administrative duties. The logical step is to engage a specialist partner company with sufficient experience, expertise and familiarity with the market to offer a comprehensive refurbishment service. Such a partner will have existing relationships with manufacturers and suppliers, be aware of the specific regulatory requirements relating to dentistry as well as a public space, and be able to offer a wide range of custom-built cabinetry and other furnishing options. 

Experience has shown that entrusting the re-design to a general architect with no particular knowledge of dentistry can result in a visually attractive surgery, but with unworkable ergonomics, and correcting design flaws post-implementation is notoriously expensive.

The tradition of modern UK dentistry has developed over many decades, and practice premises today vary from state-of-the-art, custom-built clinics to converted Victorian town houses. Established refurbishment companies offer adaptable solutions in a wide range of styles, with overall packages, which include cabinetry designed to maximise storage capacity by exploiting even the most awkward corners or difficult locations.    

Health & Safety requirements

Within the parameters of the client’s preferences, the partner company should ensure the products supplied are durable, ergonomic and satisfy health and safety requirements. 

Tavom is said to be acutely conscious of the paramount importance of infection control throughout the practice, even in the non-clinical areas where patients interact with each other and with the practice staff. Where space is at a premium, the efficient application of hygiene measures can easily be compromised. While there is never any excuse for below par cross-infection control, efficient design within a limited area will overcome spatial constraints and assist staff to maintain the highest standards.

Concern over blood-borne virus infections, such as HIV and hepatitis, fuelled by the ongoing hospital campaign to defeat the superbug invasion, has focused public attention on hygiene in healthcare facilities as never before. Although initially more expensive, the company recommends the installation of work surfaces of glass or Corian, manufactured from acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, as durable and, ultimately, cost effective, ideal solutions. 

Both options are said to be impervious, aesthetically pleasing and easy to wipe clean between patients. Corian performs particularly well, and looks set to become the industry standard as more and more practices update their surgeries.

The diverse characteristics of dental practice premises compromise the effectiveness of a ‘one size fits all’ response to refurbishment. 

It’s vital to engage a company which espouses custom-made solutions to maximise the efficient use of the available space.

With the right partner to guide your refurbishment, your space odyssey will leave you feeling over the moon, and at the same time reinforce the loyalty of your patients and your team.    

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