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BY STEPHANIE SISK
What do you remember when you meet someone for the first time? Piercing eyes? Nice outfit? Wild hairdo?
It’s those first impressions that last. Long after you’ve forgotten someone’s name, you can recall those spike high heels she was wearing.
First impressions carry over to places too, including your dental office.
When patients, especially first-timers, visit your office, do they see:
We all understand that appearances shouldn’t matter, or matter as much. But when walking into a healthcare provider’s office, patients want some reassurance that they’ve chosen well, that the dentist and staff are professional, caring and, well, interesting.
Of course, your office should look professional, and functionality should rule the day in the operatory. Your office arrangements and decor do matter, though, and go into the mix of impressions your patients have of you and your staff.
We’ve all walked into an office that is suped-up contemporary. It’s sleek with lots of glass. I saw a photo of one office redo described as “luxury spa.”
That’s impressive and certainly elicits a “Wow” (and a “what did this cost?” by the way) but what draws me in is something more authentic.
An elegant waiting area with Queen Anne-style couches and chairs might reveal your passion for antiques and history. Mission-style furnishings could open a window to your interest in architecture.
In other words, your office can tell patients something about yourself. And that’s a good thing.
It’s another way of being accessible, of opening up and creating connections with patients and staff, says David Ahearn, a dentist who also runs a dental office design business in Massachusetts. Dr. Ahearn prefers a neutral look, but says décor is a matter of taste.
Kelly Jorn Cook of Chandler, AZ, is one to follow his own tune.
A huge classic rock and roll fan, Dr. Cook set out 10 years ago with an idea – and a little professional design help – to create a musically themed office. His waiting room is bright and bold and features signed guitars, framed album covers and posters he’s collected over the years. Treatment rooms are similarly outfitted. (Check out photos of his office at www.kellyjorncook.com.)
“I have always loved music and I wanted to have fun everyday,” Dr. Cook explained. “So many people are terrified of the dentist, so I wanted a distraction that made people feel comfortable and at ease. I didn’t want the dull waiting room with plastic plants and ancient issues of magazines; I didn’t want the “dental spa” vibe either. I like to call what we have an ‘adult pediatric office.’”
Dr. Cook said it took a little while for patients to “get it,” but he said his office has enabled “me to be myself” – and the payoff has been worthwhile.
“It’s important that my patients are comfortable with me in my own environment; they feel it, and it has helped create the trust fundamental to our relationship. I like to have a laugh with my patients, and the environment makes it easy.”
Patients respond, bringing in CDs and band recommendations for Dr. Cook as well as music suggestions to augment the office soundtrack, which covers everything from classic rock to reggae to bluegrass. And, lately, Johnny Cash.
“Not only do I love this interaction, it gives me a little more insight into who my patients are, which makes me better at connecting with their needs. Not to mention, my patients and I always have something to talk about.”
So don’t be reluctant to give your patients a glimpse of who you are, your personality. Authentic can be interesting.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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