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5 Principles for Designing Your Practice

By: Gavin Shea

Sponsored by Wells Fargo Practice Finance, Dental Economics, ADA Business ResourcesSM, and the American Dental Association, the annual Dental Office Design Competition recognizes dental practices in a variety of categories including Design of the Year -- Solo Practice, Design of the Year -- Group Practice, and Outstanding Achievement Awards for New Dentist Practice, Design Efficiency and Specialty Practice. Reviewing the online library of these winning practices at wellsfargo.com/dodc can provide inspiration for your own project and insights into the design decisions that contributed to their vision and success. Following are the five design principles that help DODC judges differentiate among good -- and winning -- practice designs.

  1. Meets stated objectives Before starting any practice design project, whether it's a complete start-up or a small upgrade, it's important to understand what your business objectives are for the project. Are you solving a functional problem, or expanding capabilities? Do you have a vision for your practice that you are seeking to execute in your design -- for instance, more space to add patients, a higher level of technology, greater functionality, or an open, friendly environment? An effective practice design reflects your vision for your dental practice and supports the objectives outlined in your business plan. The key is to think through your design project carefully and fully understand why you are doing it. The better you understand your objectives, the better you will execute your plan.
  2. Achieves functional balance Functional balance means that your project incorporates the principles of architectural design, clinical function, technology integration, and ergonomic design -- all within the scope of your budget. These elements work together to produce a balanced, functional, well-designed practice that expresses your personal vision while effectively meeting the needs of your patients. To achieve functional balance in your design project, work with design professionals to ensure you have adequately addressed these four cornerstones of practice design. Try not to cut corners in this area as functional balance can drive office efficiencies, patient comfort and employee satisfaction -- all key contributors to your overall level of productivity.
  3. Utilizes an effective floor plan The floor plan is another key component in increasing office efficiency and building an effective practice design. You want room to move and expand your capabilities, but not so much room that you're wasting steps and time. You need a balance between efficient traffic flow and comfortable movement between work zones for both staff and patients, from public to private spaces. To get the most from your floor plan, ensure it can support your strategy for practice growth and is effective for the long-term, with adequate space for adding equipment or accommodating an increase in patients.
  4. Incorporates updated equipment Staying current with technology is a critical way of staying competitive in today's dental market. Using up-to-date technology not only improves the overall proficiency of your practice, but also communicates to your patients that they will receive the utmost in care from you. The next 15 years will bring remarkable changes in dental technologies, so now is an excellent time to incorporate a digital platform into your practice. At the same time, not all technology improvements are digital. Updated equipment can include everything from the latest in digital radiology to ergonomic patient chairs that address not only the patient's comfort, but the doctor's and clinical team's comfort as well. It has been shown that practices that embrace new technologies thrive regardless of the state of the economy, while those who resist the transition to new technology tend to struggle. Be an "embracer" and build at least a few new technologies into your practice design. It will help position your business for future success.
  5. Looks professional and appealing Usually, one of the key motivators for a practice redesign or upgrade is the desire to create a more contemporary and attractive presentation. It is indeed important that your practice has general physical appeal to patients and presents professionally in order to instill confidence. As one of the DODC judges points out, new patients have no way of evaluating the quality of services you will provide, and will take into account other factors that are tangible and subject to evaluation. In this context, the physical environment can communicate the level of excellence of the practice, with professional, current practice designs helping to assure the patient's confidence in the doctor's abilities.

To get a head start in outlining your practice design project, contact your Business Development Manager at Wells Fargo Practice Finance to request a complimentary Project Planner -- a step-by-step guide for expanding, remodeling and upgrading your practice.

Then, once your practice start-up, redesign or expansion is completed, consider entering it into the Dental Office Design Competition. If you follow these five principles, your practice could be a winner!

For an entry form and complete Competition rules, visit www.dentalofficedesigncompetition.com

Sponsors do not participate in the Dental Office Design Competition judging panel and do not participate in the Competition judging process in any way.

About the Author

Gavin Shea is the National Director, Healthcare for Wells Fargo Practice Finance. With more than 17 years of banking experience with an emphasis in practice lending, he leads sales and marketing strategy development and implementation throughout the national footprint. His industry background offers practitioners a unique perspective as they approach some of the most important decisions in their professional lives. With more than 30 years of healthcare experience, Wells Fargo Practice Finance specializes in helping healthcare professionals acquire, start and expand their practices with various financing options and a signature Practice Success Program. Contact: gavin.m.shea@wellsfargo.com or 844-626-4317

View all articles by Gavin Shea


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The views expressed in the articles are those of the authors alone. They may or may not reflect the views or opinions of Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

ADA® is a registered trademark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a service mark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a program brought to you by ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

ADA® is a registered trademark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a service mark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a program brought to you by ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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