Dental Office Design Competition: A Conversation With DR. Sarah Brent at KC Family Dental in Fairway Kansas.

Feature article from the DeW Life Magazine Summer 2019

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The patient experience is a critical, yet highly complex consideration in the building and success of a practice. Comfort is important, but things like convenience, interaction with staff, and so many other elements come into play. Making the needle even tougher to thread is consideration of the patient experience in the aesthetic of a practice. From the colors to design to the placement of equipment.

Outstanding design for a practice’s facility takes into account this myriad of factors and creates a space that positively impacts patients, from the time they are walking up to the building to well after they’ve left. This consideration for patients and their experience is key to why Dr. Sarah Brent and her practice, KC Family Dental, were selected as the winners of the Dental Office Design Competition. A contest created by Wells Fargo Practice Finance to recognize dental facilities that most effectively express the practitioner(s) philosophy and demonstrate thoughtful assembly of design characteristics associated with an up-to-date dental facility.

We spoke with Dr. Brent about what went into the design of her practice and how she sought to make it beneficial for dentists, staff, and most of all patients:

What was the initial inspiration for the design of KC Family Dental? What was the starting point?

We started with some of the more challenging elements of the design, like the fact that the lot is essentially a triangle and that we wanted to blend with the aesthetic of the neighborhood while not losing a modern feel. Overall, we wanted a good flow from outside to inside, which we felt would add to our patient’s comfort coming in the door and seeing a well-designed place that looked like it fit both the neighborhood and their needs.

How important were the design professionals you worked with in achieving the flow you envisioned?

Very much so. Generator Studio did a fantastic job with the aesthetic, using brick and subtle colors to have the building fit with the neighborhood while looking contemporary. Details like the way the metal roof sweeps at an angle and even the backlighting of our sign catch people’s attention and allow us to engage them as they drive by. Inside they did an amazing job as well, from the two-story vaulted lobby that provides a lot of natural light to the artwork that gives the space great character.

Speaking of the inside, can you describe a bit of how you approached the interior design specifically? How did you balance the aesthetic with the functional?

One thing that was beneficial for us (and a piece of advice I would provide to others opening a practice) is working with someone who has had extensive experience designing specifically dental offices, if possible. There were so many “little decisions” that helped to create a functional and attractive interior design, and our designer Dr. Michael Unthank with Unthank Design Group was a huge asset in this regard. As a dentist and architect, he has great firsthand experience with how to achieve this balance of design and function.

Dr. Unthank was also instrumental in my dad’s practice design, as well. After my dad lost his practice in a natural disaster a few years ago, Dr. Unthank was the designer that worked with him as he rebuilt, which is how I was connected with him.

Thinking about that balance and the flow that you described earlier, how did the patient fit into these design elements?

We wanted to foster a calm, enjoyable place for our patients. Many healthcare professionals can attest that a comfortable patient has better outcomes and an overall better experience. Like the big windows we have, and all of the natural light creates a calming effect, especially since we’re so close to a creek and can even see wildlife and nature from multiple places throughout the office.

Another thing I like to note is the attention we’ve paid to noise. Using dental equipment is noisy, so we had the architects install suspended wood panels we call “wooden clouds” because they are filled with insulation and can help to dampen noise for the patient in the chair, which can help with their overall comfort.

You mentioned your dad’s practice, so I’m wondering how much of an influence the design of his practice was on yours.

The most influence is on how we approach the functionality of the office for our staff because growing up; I was on my dad’s staff! Everyone who works in a dental office from dentists to the staff are in awkward positions all day, so we want to do what we can to mitigate that. Factors like our dental chairs and rear delivery cart system give us great flexibility and allow providers to be comfortable so they can focus on providing an excellent experience for the patient. This even extends to the front of the house where we were intentional about how we laid out the front desk and cabinetry and giving the folks up there good chairs to operate in so they could be comfortable and focus on being that great first impression when people walk in the door.

Let’s talk about technology for a minute. You mentioned a modern aesthetic, so how has technology played a role in the design of the practice and the patient experience?

Investing in technology is essential for a modern dental practice and the tools we use help us to provide more for our patients. Two things we emphasize are convenience and information for those that come in. In terms of operations, we use Golden Goose’s scheduling service to make sure we don’t miss new patient calls, while we utilize LocalMed’s ability to have patients do online scheduling for their convenience. Again there’s a lot of “little decisions” that make a difference, like using iPads for patients to input information in the lobby in a way that’s more private than more communal desktop computers.

This article provided by Tamarra Plankers, Certified Healthcare Business Consultant, Vice President, Practice Management Group at Wells Fargo Practice Finance. Strategies and tips provided are general in nature and are not legal, tax, or investment advice. Wells Fargo makes no warranties as to accuracy or completeness of information; does not endorse any non-Wells Fargo companies, products, or services described here; and takes no liability for your use of this information. Information and suggestions regarding business risk management and safeguards do not necessarily represent Wells Fargo’s business practices or experience. Please contact your own legal, tax, or financial advisors regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based on this information.

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