How Dental Clinic Design can affect Patient Experience

Updated: April 2024

The ‘patient experience’ commences the second someone first interacts with your dental clinic.

Once a potential patient has gone through the research phase of comparing you with other dental clinics and decide to book an appointment, they arrive at your dental clinic and make the all-important first entry.

While this may not seem like an important step (as many patients walk through your doors every day), the first ‘walk in’ is the most critical entrance that they will make to your dental clinic. This first visitation is imperative in the formation of a patient’s first impression of the dental clinic and overall patient experience. All this before they’ve even been greeted!

Dental clinic design plays a key role in this first impression and will also influence whether a patient comes back a second, third, and many more times in years to come.

The little things matter

Creating an overall positive patient experience is made up of micro moments – small experiences that contribute a larger outcome. The little things matter, and attention to detail is what will separate you from other dental clinics.

The best way to elevate patient experience through your dental clinic design is to put yourself in their shoes and consider the pain points patients are thinking about and experiencing throughout the dental process.

So how exactly can we implement empathetic dental clinic design? What should we consider as dental professionals?

Dental clinic design with capacity in mind

Are there enough seats available? The last thing a patient wants is to walk into a crowded clinic with limited seating, stuck between two other patients to rub shoulders with whilst they wait.

Dental clinic design must consider your busiest operating times and account for patient growth in the future to comfortably accommodate the amount of people entering and exiting the dental clinic.

Anxiety around public spaces has only intensified during the pandemic. Your patients are more likely to react negatively to feeling crammed and claustrophobic if they have to sit between people or navigate around others to get to where they need to be.

More is more when it comes to adequate seating requirements when designing a new dental clinic or renovating an existing space.

TIP: People will notice if you are trying to schedule more patients than your waiting area can comfortably accommodate. If you have a smaller dental clinic, speak to an expert on best ways to utilise the space to create an efficient, yet comfortable environment.

Comfort

Your dental clinic environment should be designed to a) represent you and your values, and b) to provide a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere for patients.

When people think of comfort, seating is something that first comes to mind, but it is often an area dentists will cut costs on, to their own detriment. Investing in quality, comfortable seating from the outset can be a memorable drawcard for patients. At times when appointments are running behind, patients in the waiting room will be far more understanding and forgiving if they are relaxed and comfortable.

Utilising noise control is a simple, yet thoughtful method to reduce patient anxiety. Soundproofing treatment rooms or playing soft, calming music can help to reduce dental noise levels and create a more peaceful environment.

Other “comfort” factors:

  • Ensure there is somewhere easily accessible for patients to get a drink
  • Bathroom facilities easily found/accessible
  • Soothing natural light if possible, ensuring your dental clinic design is warm, bright, and inviting, without going too far and becoming sterile.
  • Technology – TV’s, iPads, etc.
  • Natural design elements such as real plants, colour palette etc.
  • Hygiene – cleanliness makes for happier patients and is must in healthcare businesses
South Yarra Orthodontic’s abundance of natural light on full display through expansive windows as a key dental clinic design element

Patient Flow and engagement.

At every stage of the dental clinic visit, patient experience must be considered. From check-in, waiting room, consult, treatment, and transaction. A well-designed clinic should have a clear and easy-to-navigate layout, with all areas and touchpoints in logical locations for a low-friction visit for every patient.

Your dental clinic design should act as a simple roadmap to naturally guide patients to move through the clinic with ease. The moment a patient doesn’t know where they should be going can trigger anxiety and potentially a reason not to return. A seamless flow between touchpoints reduces patient stress.

Officer Smiles is a great example of effective patient flow between reception/waiting areas to consult rooms via wide, bright hallways.

Design for positive patient/staff interaction

People are at the heart of any successful dental clinic. You will likely go to great lengths to acquire the best possible staff to uphold your values as a business – so design a clinic that best allows this.

Effective communication between the dental staff and patients is crucial. Your dental clinic reception area plays a critical role in facilitating good patient communication. It is the first point of contact, again important in terms of positive first impressions for new patients. By designing a practical yet aesthetic reception area, you allow staff to communicate clear instructions on procedures, discussing treatment options, and provide all information effectively and friendly.

Consider implementing a separate payment area for private conversations between patients and staff as to avoid the entire waiting room hearing what is being discussed.

Evergreen Dental Care’s reception area is inviting and natural with a touch of greenery. It’s multi-tiered desk is designed for ease of communication with patients.

Future-focused design

While we’ve mentioned issues surrounding the physical environment, factors like how you accept bookings can also impact patient satisfaction – before they’ve even stepped foot in your door.

Younger generations are digitally motivated, meaning their preferred method of booking is through your online website, and will often go elsewhere if you don’t offer this. While your older, loyal customers still enjoy the phone call booking, being adaptive and inclusive for all potential customers will widen your demographic and growth potential.

Dental clinics are evolving. In the past, they were a place associated with pain and anxiety. As a dental clinic owner or manager, it’s our responsibility to change public perception of dentistry by elevating the patient experience through strategic dental clinic design.

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