Is it better to present treatment plans chairside or in a dedicated consultation room? No matter which you think you prefer, a recession could have you singing a different tune.

Melissa Sprau Benco Dental

MELISSA SPRAU, NCIDQ manages Benco Dental’s team of CenterPoint designers. A graduate of Moore College of Art & Design, she has more than 12 years of experience in facilities planning for a large health-care system and interior design with several architecture firms.

By Melissa Sprau, NCIDQ

CONSULTATION IS all about hitting the right notes. It empowers patients to
be active participants in their care through clear communication, ensuring treatment plan understanding and providing an environment in which they feel comfortable asking questions. As if that weren’t nuanced enough, it might soon become more challenging.

In 2022, many economists became convinced—some with 100 percent certainty—that a recession is on the horizon for this coming spring or summer. We all know what that means for patients: less discretionary income and household budgets stretched to the breaking point. Suddenly, the way you present treatment plans could make or break your patient relationships.

One camp argues that it’s better to do consultations chairside. Certainly, today’s wall-mounted screens or easily moveable monitor arms make it easy for patients to understand what you’re talking about and accept treatment. Another camp believes consults should take place in dedicated rooms so patients can enjoy calm and focus. Still others favor a 50-50 approach: chairside for minor issues, and consultation rooms for more extensive treatment plans. Is there one clear answer? Sadly, no, but I can offer an opinion based on my experience as a health care designer for hospitals and dental practices.

Every practice should have a consultation room. As designers, we focus far less on creating spaces, and much more on crafting patient experiences. If it were simply a question of space planning or aesthetics, then your building, budget or personal preference could dictate whether to construct a consultation room. But the fact is, it’s not about what you want—it’s about what patients want, and every patient is unique.

Just because you have a consultation room doesn’t mean you should always use it. Let the empathy you’ve honed as a practitioner dictate where you present treatment plans and under what circumstances. For example, patients predisposed to an unhealthy level of skepticism may feel like they’re being “sold to” in a consultation room.

More options are better. If you have only one way to present treatment plans, you might not be in the most persuasive position to help every patient. If a recession occurs and you have more patients with financial difficulties, added privacy might suddenly be more important than ever.

Your overall investment will be small compared to how much it will benefit your practice over the course of five, 10 or more years.

The good news is that consultation rooms are cost-effective and take up relatively little space. Your overall investment will be small compared to how much it will benefit your practice over the course of five, 10 or more years. Some tasteful finishes, furnishings and decor are all you need to execute it to perfection. A professional designer can help you find the necessary square footage while incorporating proven best practices so you get the best return on your investment. If a recession is indeed coming, why wait for the music to stop and catch you ill-equipped for
serving the needs of your patients, team and practice?