Recently we wrote about the importance of considering the “workflow” of a dental clinic during the design phase.
Equally, if not more importantly, is “patient flow” – how your patients move through your dental clinic, and how this can affect their perception of your business based on their patient experience.
Regardless of industry and business, customer service is everything. It is the difference between a successful business and one setup to fail.
In dentistry, this has never been more relevant. You can have a high achieving dentist in your clinic, but if the overall experience is sub-par, your business may struggle to secure long-term, returning patients – which is what successful dental clinics are built upon.
The end result of a beautiful, healthy smile is only one part of a much larger experience that leads to satisfied patients. Patient flow is a key factor in determining a positive experience for patients and getting them to come back for years to come.
Dental Clinic Layout
Improving patient flow starts with dental clinic layout at the initial design concept phase. Whether you are undertaking a new build or renovating an existing space, optimising the movement of patients through your clinic is paramount to an elevated patient experience and ongoing business success.
You want people to move naturally from one point to the next, without having to backtrack or navigate around obstacles or other people with difficulty. Clever dental clinic design with patient flow front of mind can also increase the number of patients you can see per day, which is a big tick from a business perspective.
The core principles of patient flow remain the same across all dental clinics, but will shift to suit the type of patients, treatment/s offered, demographic, and size and shape of the space available. For example, a dental clinic that requires a patient photography area will need to consider where this is placed in the patient’s journey for an effective flow from area to area.
If space permits, adding a dedicated payments area located close to, but ‘away’ from reception can increase privacy for conversation about payment, as well as reduce bottlenecks and improve the overall mood of a dental clinic.
Patient Flow doesn’t only exist in a physical sense. Successful, modern dental clinics are embracing technology and automating the experience where possible – without losing the human touch.
An example of this is having a seamless website and online booking system to streamline admin tasks and increase patient satisfaction at a very early touchpoint. Dental clinics will always have patients that prefer a call and human interaction but automating some of these steps reduces stress on staff and gives control to the customer.
Online patient portals are a great way to register new patients and safely store patient details for returning visits, saving time and reducing human error.
It may seem like a simple step, but one that is often overlooked. Integrating effective wayfinding signage that helps guide patients around your clinic, providing peace of mind at every stage of their visit. From car park and entrance, a warm reception area, through to consultation and payment, signage is a key design element to a higher level of patient experience and flow.
This is especially important for first time visitors to your dental clinic, as entering a new space and feeling lost is a common cause for patient anxiety.
Ask your patients!
Your patients are the drivers of your business. They pay your bills and know better than anyone how it feels during the various stages of a visit to your dental clinic. Who better to ask than the opinion of those moving through your space day-to-day. Customer surveys can uncover crucial insights into the patient experience that you may have overlooked, which may be as simple as a refresh station, the spacing/number of waiting room seats, etc.
While we’ve outlined what constitutes an optimal Patient Flow – what does the opposite of this look like? Poorly planned dental clinic design can create unnecessary bottlenecks for both patients and staff, creating a stressful atmosphere and disrupting the operations of a clinic.
Great customer service and a positive human interaction will always be number 1 in a successful dental clinic. From welcome greeting to a friendly goodbye upon completing the transaction, it’s the little things that add up to a positive patient experience. Patient flow in dental clinic design does not replace this – but will accentuate and complement your welcoming staff and beautiful space.
An efficient patient flow makes for a more seamless, stress-free experience for everyone involved.