Episode 4: Designing Efficiency & Comfort into Your Practice


Read the audio transcript below:

Dr. Luisa Schuldt (LS): Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Brush Up, presented by Oral Health Group, the dental podcast where we speak with industry experts to discuss a variety of topics such as technology, finance and practice management. I’m your host, Dr. Luisa Schultz, the dual-certified Prosthodontist and Periodontist based out of Fonthill, Ontario. Today we’re discussing with Peter and Darcy, designing style and comfort into your practice. Peter is founder of Practice Mastery Inc., a business development coaching company that serves the growth and development needs of your practice. His unique coaching empowers teams, principal dentists, associates and industry companies across North America to achieve extraordinary growth, higher income and exceptional quality of life. Joining us today is also Darcy. She is co-founder of Bella Vita Designs along with Peter. This is an interior design company specializing in creating beautiful, functional spaces for startups, remodels, expansions, or relocating your dream practice. Welcome!

Peter Barry (PB): Thank you.

LS: It’s a pleasure having you here.

PB: And thank you, Oral Health magazine, for putting this on. We’re looking forward to our talk today.

LS: If you want to jump right into it, I would love to hear why interior design in our dental practices is so important. Why is it so valuable in today’s evolving dental marketplace?

PB: Well, it’s important because if you take a look at society in general, if we take a look at on a day-to-day basis as you go through life and you walk through malls and you walk through stores and you walk into different buildings and spaces, you’ll notice that spaces today are changing significantly from spaces in the past. I know that merchants today are extremely tuned in to creating more comfortable environments, more environments that are more enjoyable, or that are more user friendly to the people that will actually shop in their spaces. And when I say the word shop, we have to remember that in dentistry today, there’s so much more that we can do for our patients that isn’t necessarily covered by insurance, right? Insurance isn’t keeping up with the latest, the greatest of what modern dentistry can do today. And today, dentistry is becoming much more about quality of life and lifestyle and health promotion, rather than just the treatment of diseases and problems. So, with that in mind, what we’ve got is we’ve got people that we’re serving that have to invest in their healthcare, and generally investors or patients are actually also consumers and consumers are people that want to spend their money and their time in environments that really make them feel good. With that in mind, this is where the importance of the design of your space really becomes imperative, right? What are we doing inside of our practice? Rather than just having the same old white walls and reception chairs and treatment rooms all aligned along the hallway. Today, every dental office is opening its doors, but it’s designing itself in very unique and creative ways that will touch the hearts and emotions and minds of the people they serve within it.

LS: Yeah. So it’s just as valuable with our patients as keeping our team feeling welcome and happy and energized as well. So really important aspects. Thank you for sharing that.

PB: Absolutely. It impacts everyone that lives in that space or functions and experiences the space on a day-to-day basis.

Darcie Galbraith (DG): The team members, as you mentioned, Luisa. The patients that walk in the door. You, as a practice owner, and how much time you spend in that dental practice, you want to make sure it represents you and everyone who walks in that door.

LS: Yeah, really great point. At a time like now, when so many people are considering how to make their practice more enjoyable, they’re considering remodeling, expansion or relocation, or even building a brand-new startup. What is so valuable in what a designer can contribute? That strategy and creative support that you bring to the table.

DG: Thank you for asking that. I think it’s really important to address how interior designers have really now stepped up in the dental world and now it’s becoming more and more common to utilize into your design when you’re talking about your dental practice these days. Just as Peter had mentioned earlier, is that we’re noticing that people need to evolve their offices that have been around for 10+ years. They have an existing space are finding themselves getting tired, outdated. They’re noticing that perhaps the doctor will enter that space, you know, day-in, day-out. They may enter from the back, they exit their car, you know, they walk into the back room, they enter the staff room. And they start clinical treatment. How often have they really been entering from the front? Are they taking that second look at – what is my patient experience from the front? How are they getting greeted? How do they see the entire space when they first walk in? What is their perception? And really, how important is that patient experience for them? So, we’re finding that there’s a slow creep of noticing things getting outdated and tired. So, utilizing an interior designer to really step up and not only just be the one that we’re known for, maybe fluffing pillows or adding some décor pieces, but really being that strategic partner to say let’s look at more in-depth details. Let’s look at how do you function in that space and how are people comfortable in that space, so really you can utilize an interior designer with three different uses or reasons. So, we find that most people start with that decorating component. If you do have a space and it’s existing and it’s needing a refresh, perhaps you update the pieces of art. You update the furnishings in the space. You look at those décor pieces, your signage and branding and maybe make those small changes that do have a big impact. Then you can really take that next step and perhaps start entering into more in-depth, which is a renovation. That’s when you step into an existing space that perhaps you’re not changing the walls or the layout. You’re really keeping each room where it needs to be. However, you are starting to look at those more details of flooring, changing out lighting, perhaps changing the ceiling details. Are there tiles that are starting to chip? Or, you know, become with water damage. Let’s really take a look at what is important and what can enhance that patient perception, and then last but not least, is taking that next step of doing a total remodel or a new build. Which is where you really start utilizing your designer of the everyday space. They’re going to focus on walking you through – how do you enter the reception? How big is the reception perhaps? How do you flow into the operatories? Is there room for a washroom? How many washrooms? What do you need to utilize? And how do you create that space with a total theme, new branding and an exciting place for you to work day-in, day-out, with your team and patients?

LS: Quite a few strategic components going on there that on our own, we wouldn’t really think of. Thank you so much for adding that clarity. A topic that’s kind of on top of our minds all the time is how the world has changed. It has changed in so many different aspects professionally, personally. What has changed in the world of interior design and what new things can you contribute?

PB: Well, the biggest change in design is that, just like the rest of the world, we’ve got over the last 25 or 30 years, the Internet and technology, which has literally fundamentally changed everything that we do and the way we do it and the way we think about it and the way we communicate and interact and engage with each other. And the same thing is actually happening now in the world of interior design. We’ve got the advancements of technology and special software. In the past, interior design tended to focus on – especially if you’re doing like a full renovation – people would take like a 2-dimensional floor plan, right? With blueprints or measurements and those blueprints and measurements are on a flat piece of paper, and they’re provided to the trades and everyone can kind of work at doing what they’re doing according to the plan design. But today, just like in dentistry, we’ve got scanners, you know, printers or 3D printing, we’ve got 3D imaging. The same thing. Now we’ve got in interior design where we can actually do what’s called 3D renderings. Now, 3D renderings is a beautiful thing because beyond just the fit and the dimensions of a space, we can now take a client or a dentist and we can walk them through their space. So that they can experience it based on standing within the space – what the overall design will actually look and feel like. And they can do this before they actually start doing the construction or building the space. So, a good example of this is – Darcy, you remember a client we had that had a unique design that he wanted to build. What was the unique design? Tell them.

DG: Well, he really felt strongly about space and especially loved NASA and the, you know, dynamics that they bring out of it.

PB: And so Darcy tells me that this guy wants to build an office that really is centred around a NASA theme. Now, of course, you can do this because you can have a Caribbean theme, you can have an artistic theme in your office. But he chose NASA. And what we find is that sometimes people will initially have, like, these heroic intentions and desires when they’re preparing or planning their new space. But if they have an opportunity to look at it and really experience it before it’s built, they might change their minds or they might find that they want to make changes to it. So luckily for this guy –

DG: It might be too out there or too out of this world.

PB: Yeah. So then Darcie put together a 3D rendering for him cause he loved the idea. He took the 3D rendering. He looked at it. He was in love with it. He showed his wife, his family, their friends, their coworkers, and everyone told him: you’re crazy. You can’t do this, right? So, he came back to the drawing board, and luckily he came back to the drawing board before the space actually began to be created. And he had the opportunity to make changes to the look, feel and design of the space before actual construction occurred.

DG: With those 3D renderings, he was able to visualize his space and use it as that vital tool to say yes, this is a great educated decision on moving forward on the theme and design.

PB: So, what could he see he? He could see the finishings and materials, the textures, the patterns, the colours and the depth of the space. And based on all of that, the 3D rendering gave them the freedom to make a better choice and redesign his space according to his true desires and interests and functional needs.

LS: And it sounds like it’s really easy to share with the people who are important to you. Maybe your business partner or your family and friends, as you’re mentioning, the people who are working in that space. That sounds really amazing. Well, in addition to these 3D renderings and all these technological advances, what else is trending in the world of interior design? New spaces? More commercial spaces?

DG: We find that in these clinical settings, that we work day-in day-out, we are really finding that there’s a trend or some concepts and themes that are starting to come about in the interior design world. So, when it comes to dental world, we do find that we’re shying away from clinical settings and creating our offices to have more residential vibes. So, what I mean is the offices are starting to look more homey. They’re starting to incorporate more familiar concepts that we know in our own homes and now bringing into that dental setting. No longer is it perhaps as clinical, clean, sterile look – it is also beautiful to do that. But perhaps now, looking into making it more familiar for everyone who walks in. So, including fireplaces in the front reception, to include modern amenities like a coffee station. Those key details that make it familiar. And I would say next, another trend is really looking at creating key focal points or features throughout your office. So, you can make them into artwork – say a wall becomes a feature art piece, furnishings become art pieces. Different key elements throughout your office can be those focal points and no longer do you just go to the store and purchase a frame and say that’s a piece of art. Now we’re creating, with interior design, with the innovation that we’re looking into, creating those unique spaces by making a wall an entire piece of wall artwork. So, it’s very exciting what’s happening in the world today. Next is that we’re finding there’s more and more importance on looking into sustainable products, sustainable materials and the sustainability of how we’re creating these spaces. So, we find that we want to make sure that they’re long lasting, quality pieces that we’re purchasing or that we’re looking into putting in these offices, so that we’re really minimizing our carbon footprint. So, we’re finding that we wanted to have long-lasting quality furniture, not only to be able to be cleanable, wipeable or something that we can utilize for a long time, but to also reduce our carbon footprint and not having every two years to purchase waiting room chairs and it goes directly into a landfill again. And we’re just repeating that cycle over and over. So, sustainability is important. Next is that we look into the ergonomics and how you function as a team in this space. So, we’re finding that we’re looking into the details of how do you sit down at your front reception desk? Is it important on the planning of an interior designer to figure out how your reception desk has drawers? How many drawers? Are they hard to grab? Do you have to turn to reach something? You have to think about your ergonomics and how it’s going to keep your body healthy and keep those healthy movements. You’re minimizing the amount of movement that will cause strain on you.

PB: And there’s three things actually that people are looking at or should be looking at when designing their space. They should be thinking about the flow. In other words, how will the overall design of a space, the configuration of each room in relation to other rooms, impact the day-to-day operations and experience of people within the office? So flow. The next one is the functionality within a space, which is what you were talking about, the ergonomics, how each individual space functions within itself. For instance, if you’ve got a right-handed chair and you’ve placed the cabinetry a certain way and suddenly now you have a left-handed dentist, that left-handed dentist, for the next number of years that he works in that office, will suddenly be reaching in inconvenient ways that will affect their body, their health and so on. Innovative use of spaces is another thing that people are looking at. Today people are becoming much more engaged in living in their work environment. So rather than – because let’s face it, you spend a good chunk of your life at work – and so rather than just having white walls, a lunchroom where you can slam food down your throat, people are putting more thought and heart into the design of their space. They’re putting meeting rooms in there. They’re creating outdoor spaces where they can sit down, they’re creating relaxation rooms. They’re creating creativity rooms. We’ve even got one client that put a full-fledged kitchen in his office where sometimes the team will cook meals. And it’s interesting because all of this in totality, what it does is it brings people and communities together and sometimes we’ll find that these offices will have, you know, a lunch and learn or they’ll have an evening course for their patients on implant dentistry or on some other innovative things. So, they’re creating spaces that will allow them to serve their communities in deeper and more meaningful ways.

LS: That’s really amazing. I love how you are commenting on having those strong family-like or community-like relationships within the team. It really makes for such a stronger, healthier work environment. And you were mentioning earlier about this almost mistake in a design that they changed their mind and the sustainability and getting rid of things because we regret what we have. What would you say are the most common mistakes? Or could you share with our listeners what have practice owners learned? What would they have done differently if they could redesign their practice all over again? What are the most common mistakes or regrets?

DG: We’ve noticed in what we’ve experienced seeing a part of this industry is that it’s definitely been important to involve your supply company early on in those planning stages. It’s important to know what clinical settings you want to implement into your office. How do your operatories function for you? As Peter had mentioned earlier. What are the longevity of? How do you function in those spaces? Your sterilization, your operatories, your lab, making sure that you’re staying up with technology and really having that dialogue with your supply company early on and bringing in those experts. So, I would say to always make sure to plan ahead. So, you want to bring in the experts early on, you know, bringing in your trades team. So, bringing everyone into the same room has been a game changer when it comes to these projects. So just as we build a team in your office, you want to now build your team of building, you know, creating that camaraderie with your team members that you’re creating of that project.

PB: So that’s the supply company, the contractor…

DG: Your supply company, contractor, architect, designer, anyone who’s going to be now a key player in that involvement. You want to set up and introduce everyone, be that team lead and introduce everyone so that they have that camaraderie, and they can speak up and speak together for you and for your project to run a little smoother. So, it’s important to have those key elements together.

PB: Yeah. So what we found is Darcy – generally when someone is about to start, especially a new build or a project – she gets everyone in the room at the same time to have a discussion, rather than 50 emails for the next two weeks where people are trying to reach each other, but they can’t really agree on anything, and that’s been a game changer. So, anyone out there that’s planning on doing something in their office – involve your supply company early on, bring everyone that’s going to be involved in the project into one room at the same time so that you can have an overall discussion, and set your intentions and set your goals. And then the last one that I find that you do a lot, Darcy, is that weekly check-in meeting, right? Rather than having 50 phone calls. Because construction projects have been sometimes called controlled chaos, but they don’t have to be chaos. They can be very organized and pre-planned if you set a weekly check in meeting with all the people that are involved in that project. So the supply company, the construction, the design, the architect. If we check in with each other once a week, within half an hour we can have a discussion that otherwise would take hours, right? For weeks to get a point across if we’re not all accessible to each other. So, this is something that we do often. The last thing that people need to consider is, let’s face it, right? When people come into the office and they need to do dentistry, you know, especially if it’s more advanced level care, they ask how much. So, in the design world, the same things happen, right? People will always ask how much things will cost. And at first, people have the instinct to want to take maybe the cheaper route, or the least expensive. And the thing that we’ve learned is that, just like in dentistry, cheap can become very expensive in the long term. If people want a well functioning space that will flow well, that will look beautiful for years to come, and that will empower them to do great work and ultimately to be profitable and successful within that space, then it’s extremely important that they budget for it and that they invest in it properly. Sometimes investing a little more in the design and planning stages of what you’re doing will enable you in the overall process to have a great outcome that will serve you and make you effective for years to come. And, ultimately, what Darcy and I always say is that when it comes to design planning, just like treatment planning, design planning is an important first step to anything you’re going to do if you want to beautify or change the look, feel, function, or flow of your dental office space.

LS: Well, thank you so much, Peter and Darcie, for all this valuable information. Thank you also to our listeners. Thank you for joining. Summing things up somewhat for our listeners, it sounds like communication and thorough planning with the right team, including with dedicated experience in dental, can really lead to so much less stress and fewer surprises and a really great outcome. Thank you so much for this information.

To our listeners, please be sure to subscribe on Spotify and follow us on social media to be notified every time we post a new episode. Keep brushing up. Thanks.