When designing an orthodontic office—whether brand new or satellite—doctors face a number of important considerations, from the aesthetic appeal of the interior design to the efficient use of space. Today especially, with rapid technological developments continuing to revolutionize orthodontic and business practice, doctors are also under pressure to anticipate and plan for the future.
Though it’s possible to renovate over the years, the most cost-effective and successful practices are conceived from the beginning with a timeless architectural foundation, strong branding, and budget- and tech-savvy choices to streamline their business model.
Maximum efficiency and flow
When conceptualizing a new office, workspace “flow” is of utmost importance. This includes strategically positioning workstations, including operatory bays: open bays, for example, can improve visualization and ease of communication with staff and patients. As an alternative to private office rooms, doctors’ niches can be placed discreetly near the bays for convenient access to files and phone calls. Fixed-wall operatory bays are also a thing of the past; instead, consider mobile translucent partitions, which are easy to reconfigure for increased efficiency.
Efficiency is, of course, the key to success—and to a seamlessly functioning team. It’s widely understood that the operating cost of an orthodontic office exceeds all other dental specialties, so the elimination of wasted motion by the doctor and staff is paramount. To accomplish this, the orthodontic supply storage, sterilization area, laboratory and other frequently accessed locations need to be next to or in the operatory bay. We often design sterilization cabinetry to facilitate a pass-through sterile instrument storage cabinet, which greatly enhances staff access to regularly needed instruments without contributing to congestion within the sterilization area.
In addition to instruments, storage for sundries, orthodontic devices and other office supplies should be closely evaluated. The creation of a central storage, with adjacent satellite storage cabinets or carts, can be used in a Kanban-style manner to help create visual cues for stock use and replenishment.
Savvy professional branding
Once the new space has been evaluated and laid out for efficient use, the next consideration is how your office will stand out within the competitive orthodontic market.
The key tool here is professional branding. When you create a brand guide, you set standards for your professional design and “voice” that are cohesive in all aspects—including social media presence, signage, interior and exterior décor, and even the overall atmosphere and culture of your office. Branding your practice gives it a distinct look and feel, setting it apart and giving new patients a taste of your team’s personality from the get-go. A well-branded practice is also easier to market.
In terms of style, the possibilities are endless. It all depends on your desired first impression: Do you and your team work best surrounded by comfortable, warm tones and wood grains? Or do you get energized by bright, modern palettes? One economic design tip: Neutral colors are a great choice for cabinetry, which would be expensive to replace if your branding changes. In the meantime, have fun with color in your accents, upholstery and wall art.
By establishing your office as efficiently and cohesively as possible, you will lay a solid business foundation and give yourself the flexibility to consider incorporating new, modern technology.
High-tech offices—inside and out
Successful practices not only anticipate immediate needs for efficiency and contemporary style; they also adapt to new technology. Certainly, the most pressing development for a “digital office” is to reinforce technological infrastructure. With offices that use digital imaging systems, sophisticated practice management applications, 3D printing, patient entertainment, and video marketing, it’s crucial to prioritize IT hardware installation considerations more than ever before.
The benefits of planning for technological integration are many. With 3D printing labs (which may require up to 40 percent less space than conventional labs), real-time inventory management, digital payment platforms, IoT environmental/energy controls, recognition software for check-in/check-out, and telemedicine, technology stands to make your office yet more effective for doctors, staff and patients alike. Don’t become outdated by neglecting to build up your digital infrastructure.
Offices won’t be the only ones using heightened technology in the near future—patients will, too. Particularly, as transportation options become increasingly sustainable and advanced, your patients’ journey to their appointments may look very different.
Autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking and allow patients to be tracked for their anticipated arrival, truly creating a just-in-time scheduling system.
Electric vehicles will be more common over the next 10 years. Consider reserving parking spots for electric vehicles to charge while patients attend their appointments. Many companies, such as ChargePoint, and municipalities already provide charging stations on a contract basis. Be ahead of the curve and consider this now.
Though the technological realm can seem to advance at the speed of light, there are other advancements that you can also predict and account for. For one thing, there’s been a trend toward increasingly heightened compliance and regulations concerning infection control. Utilizing equipment, work surfaces, and water and air systems that prevent the transmission of disease and withstand the frequent use of antimicrobial cleansers must be expected for staff and patient safety.
Additionally, you can account for your office’s future growth. If possible, size certain functional areas for the anticipated patient load five or 10 years into the future. If you’re working with a limited budget, I recommend prioritizing size items with the longest serviceable life to the “future-state” office demand. This includes furnishings such as sterilization and storage cabinetry, network infrastructure, and compressors and vacuum systems.
The world of orthodontics and practice management will only grow more advanced, efficient and user-friendly—so as you take your first steps toward making your dream office a reality, you can use these considerations to start strong and take future developments in stride.