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Florida comforts

April 1, 2001
Dental Office Design winner 'obsesses' over making patients feel at home.

by Joseph A. Blaes, DDS

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Dental Office Design winner 'obsesses' over making patients feel at home

Dental Economics is proud to announce the winner in the solo practitioner practice division of the second annual Matsco Dental Office Design Competition: Dennis H. Munholand, DDS, of Port Charlotte, Fla.

This unique office design fits the vision of Dr. Munholand, as well as the philosophy and mission of his team. The planning stretched out a few years and represents great attention to detail and construction, producing an office that makes a dental visit a real pleasure. The team is justifiably proud and finds coming to work a joy. Dr. Munholand said his practice philosophy weighed in heavily throughout the process of developing this wonderful dental facility.

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"Our practice philosophy embraces the promise to offer our patients the highest quality available in both function and esthetics," he said. "We refuse to offer one without the other and wanted to achieve the same balance in our new facility."

The design began with "bubble" drawings, which were pored over for many months by the dental team. They determined the logistics and function of the basic floor plan. Dr. Munholand said, "After we were completely satisfied with our bubble drawings, we actually just thought about it for several more months and then went back and made more changes. This is the beginning of a journey."

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He said the office's "obsession" with "quality function and esthetics" led them to choose a well-respected custom homebuilder in Port Charlotte. Motivated by the strong desire for esthetics, the office wanted to protect the native vegetation on the project site. The builder had a reputation for working around the existing environment.

"Our patients take pride in the service that we offer them and are very loyal," Dr. Munholand said. "We wanted to try to reciprocate as much loyalty as possible. We asked our patients who were in the building field for a bid in their respective trade. Our own patients provided much of the construction and the pride they felt in their work was evident."

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He said one objective of the design was for the office to look and feel "like a home rather than a dental office."

Dr. Munholand said, "One frequent comment we hear from patients seeing the office for the first time is, 'Can we move in?' Every month, we have several people walk in to request information and a tour of what they thought was a model home. Our design exudes a warmth and feeling of welcome that I have never seen matched."

He said some unique design elements include:

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Extremely good use of lighting. With overhead, side-mounted, and ambient lighting, the unusually good lighting makes it appear as if it's always a sunny day - even when the clouds are overhead. At the foot of all the treatment chairs is a 6-by-6-foot window that overlooks either an enclosed butterfly garden or some of the beautiful native vegetation that attracts a multitude of different species.

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The utility wall was designed to be two feet deep in order to accommodate all present and future technology needs. Prophy jets, personal CD players (for the patient's use), and plasma-arc lights are all enclosed in drawers to give a cleaner, more esthetically pleasing look to the treatment room wall.

Another bathroom is available for use by patients during treatment.

Dr. Munholand explained, "We do not feel that it is appropriate to send patients out to the front bathroom when they are in a mid-treatment stage, such as teeth prepped for crowns waiting for temporization. In a case such as this, they are escorted to the private/back bathroom that purposely lacks a mirror. This prevents panic from seeing partially completed treatment.

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A coffee bar was an idea that borrowed from the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla. Starbucks coffee is complemented with a choice of several different flavored creamers and herbal or regular tea - all day long. Plain or chilled bottled water is also available.

The dental team attended many seminars, including the T.H.E. Design course, the Michael Unthank course on office design, and the design course offered by Atlanta Dental Design. They "practically devoured" the Dental Economics books on office design. While attending the Hinman Dental Meeting, they toured many upscale dental offices in the Atlanta area and borrowed several accent ideas from their favorite offices.

"It is probably obvious that we consider extreme customer service to be the golden key to success," Dr. Munholand said. "Our devotion to this has been shaped by years of listening to people like Dr. Jim Pride, Dr. Roger Levin, Jim and Naomi Rhode, and the staff of the Pankey Institute. Without their insights and the sharing of their visions, this project would have never been possible."

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He said that Practice Outlook, the management software used, has "bridges" to the other software used in the practice. These software bridges simplify entering patient information, but are not as seamless as a fully integrated system might be.

The doctor's private office is the exact dimension of two treatment rooms. Anticipating future expansion, the builder plumbed and wired the office for the possibility of needing two more treatment rooms. The current utility walls also have several unused spaces to allow for future expansion of technology in the treatment rooms.

The very efficient design also called for placing the treatment rooms in a way that minimizes the need to move long distances between treatment rooms. The cleanup, sterilization, and tray-prep area is conveniently located next to the treatment rooms for easy access and availability of extra instruments.

This efficiency continues in the treatment rooms. The rear-delivery utility wall is also two feet deep. This unique utility wall provides storage so that the equipment that is used often is easily accessible.

"This wall will accommodate current and future technologies very neatly and out of the view of the patient," Dr. Munholand said.

The area also houses the video control center in each room. An intraoral camera is connected to an adjacent flat screen computer, as well as a four-way video switch. The switch determines which signal - the intraoral video image, a videotape player, a DVD player, or the computer screen image - goes to the ceiling-mounted TV monitor at the front of the room. Patients can see Schick digital X-rays, DICOM digital imaging, or Florida probe charts on the TV monitor. Wireless keyboards allow the providers or assistants to easily enter data and select applications.

An intraoral camera is in each of the six treatment rooms. The three rooms that are used primarily to treat hygiene patients have the cameras wired directly to a video printer located in that room's utility wall for easy printing. The three in the rooms used primarily by the dentist have the capture function built into the camera and are wired to the video capture function of the computer in that room's utility wall. In these three rooms, prints can be made on the Hewlett Packard P1000 Photo Inkjet printers connected to the computer.

An Olympus 2500 digital camera that is equipped with a Lester A. Dine ring/point flash unit is used for new patient's series of photos. The Compact Flash memory card can then be removed from the camera, placed directly into the HP 1000 Inkjet memory card slot, and prints can be made directly from the memory card to the printer, bypassing the computer.

Dr. Munholand said, "We typically print four photos per page, keeping one set for our records and giving the new patient a set to take home with them. While it is hard to measure, we think this helps raise the level of awareness in the patient, as well as the spouse at home, of dental treatment."

In the consultation room, a Iomega PhotoZip device is connected to a monitor. The PhotoZip copies the images directly from the digital camera's Compact Flash card onto a Zip disk and onto the monitor. Changing pictures is easy with the PhotoZip wireless remote control.

"Now you are ready for a high-tech consultation. Very quick, very cool!" said Dr. Munholand.

The Sirona X-ray units located in each room allow for an easy selection of digital or conventional exposure of radiographs.

"We use the Schick digital radiography system," Dr. Munholand explained. "Because of its convenient USB connectivity, it is possible for us to take digital X-rays in all six rooms while having only two sensors."

He said the advantages to digital X-rays include cost savings, time savings, elimination of caustic materials, and ease of duplication.

"But the thing we like the most is the ability to engage patients in co-diagnosis by letting them see the X-ray image on the 20-inch Sony TV monitor, ceiling-mounted at the front of the room," he said. "Through the use of the video switch, we can switch from the digital X-ray to CAESY DVD patient education system for an explanation of the treatment options.

"It has been our experience that the closer patients are to our understanding of their situation, the more likely they are to select the type of treatment that we would want of ourselves."

On significant cases, Dr, Munholand and staff document the case with 35mm slides. Occasionally, they find themselves needing a digital image from a slide, which is done with a HP S20 slide scanner.

"We have the CAESY patient education system in each of our six treatment rooms and the CAESY Smile Channel in our reception and consultation rooms," Dr. Munholand said. "Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't ask about something that they saw on one of our monitors. It's like having your own in-house advertising agency. It is hard to imagine how much dental care these programs have generated for us over the years, not to mention the added patient appreciation that seems to follow better understanding of treatment."

The abundance of technology and equipment hasn't caused the office to forget the purpose of these enhancements.

"Patient comfort has been the leading reason for many of the designs present in the office," said Dr. Munholand. "The first thing patients notice when they walk into one of our treatment rooms is the clean, uncluttered look of the room. Their eyes next settle on the front wall with its six-foot square window looking out onto our native landscaping."

"The large windows, along with the glass block accents on the sidewalls, create an open feel to the room and give the patient something pleasing to look at. To the existing vegetation, we have added plants that attract butterflies and birds. Most patients will see some form of wildlife during their appointments."

The patient's TV monitor is placed close to the ceiling so that it can be viewed in both a seated and a reclined position. Behind patients (and out of view) is the utility wall and a rear-delivery dual cart system. The cart can be completely reversed to accommodate a left-handed operator. Behind the side cabinet drawers, there are electrical outlets for connecting small electrical equipment without cluttering the countertops.

"This allows us to use our Apollo plasma-arc curing lights for high-speed composite curing," said Dr. Munholand. "We also provide CD music with headphones. Patients can bring their own CDs or make a selection from our library."

Dental Economics' staff extend congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Munholand and his team. This stunning office design is a culmination of years of planning and attention to the smallest detail. You may e-mail your comments to [email protected].

I would be remiss if I did not thank The Matsco Companies and Allison Farey. Allison is the senior vice president at Matsco and a dear friend. The Dental Office Design Competition is her wonderful idea. She presented it to us two years ago during a Hinman Dental Meeting, and we were so excited that Dental Economics agreed to partner with the Matsco Companies on the competition. Thanks, Allison, for having the foresight to conceive the idea and the drive to create a very successful competition. The Matsco Companies are specialists in financing for your dental practice and other needs. For details, call them at (800) 326-0376.

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