A picture is worth a thousand words

Sept. 1, 2008
During the course of a year, I have the opportunity to talk with many dentists and see many dental offices.

by Guy B. Jaffe, MBA

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: attractive office, appraise higher, good taste, interior designer, sterile, neat and clean, purge dental charts, consolidating storage.

During the course of a year, I have the opportunity to talk with many dentists and see many dental offices. In visiting so many different offices, it has become clear to me that it's easier to sell a practice located in an attractive office. AND TYPICALLY THOSE PRACTICES APPRAISE HIGHER. In a nutshell, there seems to be a positive correlation between attractive dental offices and dental practices that are economically successful.

Purchasing new equipment is the most expensive aspect of updating an office; however, there are many other things that can be done to make your office more appealing. It starts with good taste. If you or your spouse are not good with colors, textures, and materials, consider hiring an interior decorator with experience in dental offices.

Think about replacing the stained carpet with a commercial grade carpet, vinyl, or ceramic tile. Consider brightening the office with new wallcovering or paint. Perhaps the cracked ceiling can be covered with acoustical tiles.

The old drapes can be replaced with modern shades or blinds. Customized artwork, plants or mirrors may do a great job in covering the barren walls. New or reupholstered chairs and sofas in the waiting room can make a huge difference.

It is said that many patients perceive "sterile" to be neat and clean. When the office has clutter on the counters, torn magazines, wilted plants, or tattered furniture, it makes patients uneasy. They sense the office may not be sanitary.

Quite a few dental offices are cluttered with old study models, outdated charts, cartons filled with unpacked supplies, and piles of paper. Old models should be boxed up, labeled, and stacked neatly on shelves if they need to be saved. The remainder should be thrown out.

Dental charts should be purged regularly. Only active charts should remain on the shelves in the business office. Older charts should be neatly arranged in a storage area so they can be easily retrieved. Large books, binders and pamphlets should be neatly arranged on shelves.

Important papers should be systematically organized, and records should be properly filed in cabinets. If they need to be saved for tax purposes, old records should be boxed up, carefully labeled, and moved to a remote storage facility, preferably away from the office.

You should consider consolidating all of your storage, not just your bulk purchases. Far too many offices are burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of supplies scattered throughout the office — making control of stock and purchasing impossible.

This inhibits the adoption of new products and allows product outdates to occur. Your inventory system should be hidden from patient view, yet easily accessible to clinical staff for rapid access and ease of inventory control. Products should not be allowed to remain in bulky promotional containers and should not, when possible, be stacked vertically.

It is generally assumed that most dental offices are clean, when actually many offices do a poor job of cleaning. Some offices only do surface dusting and neglect high dusting and cleaning of light fixtures, baseboards, and millwork. Window washing should be regularly scheduled, and blinds should be cleaned weekly. Carpet cleaning should be done at least twice a year. Restrooms need to be disinfected and all lavatory fixtures sanitized weekly.

Trash needs to be collected and removed, and cans need to be properly lined. Floors should be swept, mopped, and polished frequently. As the first and last areas patients see, entrance areas, reception rooms and foyers must shine.

Doorknobs, telephones, and light switches should be wiped and disinfected. Employee lounge areas are typically untidy, so staff should frequently clean the countertops, table, microwave, and refrigerator.

The office should make a definite statement. New patients in particular form immediate and lasting impressions of you while they consider placing a considerable amount of trust in your clinical and esthetics skills. Your office doesn't have to make a bold or glitzy statement, but an appropriate level of quality must be apparent from the instant patients enter your door. Your office sits at the intersection of practice productivity and customer satisfaction. It communicates your commitment to patients.

Guy B. Jaffe, MBA, is a principal of ADS Midwest and past president of American Dental Sales. He provides brokerage, appraisal, and consulting services in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. Reach Jaffe at (800) 221-6927 or at [email protected].

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