Hey, Good-Lookin’

Great practice design isn’t strictly a matter of attractive aesthetics. It’s also an extremely important aspect of good patient care.

HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to all who entered this year’s Incisal Edge Design Competition, undertaken in tandem with Clarion Financial, for which I served as a judge. The practices that stood above the others shared some common attributes in their overall plan, design and interior décor: a clear, consistent, carefully considered design theme that represented the character of the practitioner and exuded a culture and energy that enhanced the patient experience.

Though all these themes were exceptional from practice to practice, they weren’t remotely similar: Their design philosophies encompassed techno-eclectic
futurism; calming natural light; grand stone with a large barn-door entryway;
rural heritage chic; slick, edgy new urbanism and much more.

These things matter. Numerous studies have shown that patients gauge their satisfaction based on the depth of their emotional connection to a practice, and aesthetics are a key component of that — communicating your message and influencing what your patients remember of their visit, how they evaluate the care you provide and even how they make their health-care decisions more broadly.

We all know that a visit to the dentist can cause patient anxiety. What follow are five aspects of emotional and physical connection to prioritize when dealing with your clientele. Consider, too, how great practice design can help with each.

Personal respect. Patients expect you to call them by name and care about them as people and not just numbers. Take time to learn about their family, their occupation and what they like to do in their downtime for fun. This will help you connect with them on an individual level before you get into discussions of treatment options and fees.

Humanity. Everyone knows what constitutes humane behavior: kindness, compassion and consideration, with the infliction of as little discomfort as possible. Pleasant surroundings are invaluable in this regard.

Empathy. Among other things, empathy entails the ability to listen without judgment in order to identify with another person’s feelings and motives. Seeing things through the eyes of the patient — and maintaining a practice aesthetic that promotes exactly that — transforms “I” and “you” to “we.”

Honesty. This consists of being forthright, communicating clearly and giving patients treatment-planning information that’s relevant to their oral health. Honesty facilitates patients’ autonomy and maintenance of their overall wellness, in the mouth and everywhere else.

Thoroughness. Practitioners who are attentive to accuracy and who conduct examinations without omissions or resorting to shortcuts will inevitably do better by their patients. Being thorough tells someone that you respect them and their time, and care enough to make the effort to treat them right.

Great practice design by itself will not guarantee your success in any of these five facets — yet it’s increasingly an important component of each. Aesthetics used to be an afterthought; just think of the cold, clinical, unattractive dental practices of the popular imagination. Yet now more than ever, form matters just as much as function. The estimable winners of this year’s Design Competition, which you can see beginning on page 36, will show you how it’s done.

LISA PHILP, RDH, CMC is the president
of Transitions Group North America