In years past, we were accustomed to designing and working in the “open-clinic” style of dental and medical offices. Removing doors at treatment rooms for better flow throughout the office, designing “open-bays” for patients and staff to quickly move about, and building partial height walls for that “open-concept” feel became the norm. Now, due to the recent pandemic, it seems as though we are questioning that style of design and re-thinking the process of how we work.
After recently walking through a few dental offices and discussing concerns with the doctors and their staff, we would like to share a few ideas to help change your office for safer environments, while minimizing the cost of major construction.
Specify and install Type II Wallcoverings in your dental or medical office. Type II Wallcoverings can be cleaned with EPA-approved disinfectants and bleach-based solutions, as per recommendations of the CDC. Search for wallcoverings that contain antimicrobial additives and are PVD-based to withstand strong disinfectants.
Specify and install FRP Partitions in your dental or medical office. While doors, walls, and glass panels can be permanent installations and create a safe and divisible environment for your practice, they can also add some major construction costs. Opting for FRP partitions is a simple way to retrofit your existing spaces, while maintaining proper social distancing for your staff and patients. These partitions can be moved about the office as needed, are easy to clean and disinfect, and are scratch and impact resistant.
Specify and install Glass Partitions in your dental or medical office. While recent practices have been designed without doors for ease of moving throughout the office, this gives the impression of an “open-air” facility that may not be fully accepted by all patients coming into the office at this time. Typical doors can be one solution to enclose the space, but can also add significant costs for construction, and create a more closed-off, cavernous feel. With that being said, glass partitions can be specified for separating the space with ease of operation, as well as providing a more open feel and allowing natural light into treatment rooms.
Specify and install Barn Doors in your dental or medical office. If your existing practice is fully functioning, especially with a rear-delivery installation, opening the back wall of a treatment room in order to install a pocket or swinging door could be extremely costly, especially if mechanicals need to be relocated. An alternative option to eliminate those types of costly installations and utilize existing conditions would be to install a barn-style door on the exterior side of the treatment rooms. These types of doors can be installed with exterior structural support, smooth operating hardware, and quality looks that can add dimension and style to your practice.
Keep in mind that while all of these solutions sound simple and practical, it is best to hire a professional designer and/or contractor for the specification and installation of these products. Those designers and contractors can help guide you with the proper specs and details, and will assist with following local codes and restrictions for your practice. See additional resources and links below.
In the days of proficiency, speed, and most importantly CLEANLINESS, you need to consider why form, flow, and function should be the focus when designing your practice.
During one given day, a doctor and their hygienists will see an average of 10-15 patients; in an 8-hour day, that is close to 1.5 patients an hour. With that said, doctors and staff must be proficient when moving about the office. Proficiency can be managed by the designer when creating the office floor plan layout. You will find so many dental sales representatives that want to TELL you how you need to run your office, but they don’t stop to listen for ways in which your unique staff can be most proficient in a day. People handle proficiencies differently; some are more tactful with phone calls, some with emails, others with text. When beginning the design process there are several questions that need to be answered, not only by you as the doctor, but your entire staff as well. So, make sure that when starting the design process, your team is asked: How do you work best in your environment? How do you complete a task with the least amount of movement? How do you best remain focused throughout a given day? These are some simple questions that must be asked to create a PROFICIENT space, “formed” and tailored to YOUR needs.
“Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” is what we would tell ourselves every day. But now we are in a world where the clock has nearly stopped as some areas of life have been put on hold. Let us take this time and try to evaluate ways to incorporate speed while being EFFICIENT at the same time. Let us look at the space around us and figure out: What creates more haste? What creates an extra motion? What do we need to change to create more timeliness and less delay? What can we do that will help with the “flow” of the office each day to save time and speed up processes? When working on the floor plan, a designer should be focusing on what your staff needs and in what order they need it. For example, used tools will come straight from an operatory and right into the sterilization center (which is called a “center” for a reason). The designer should create that sterilization area as the main hub, with easy access, so staff can “flow” through their tasks with efficient SPEED, avoiding any extra steps and adding extra minutes to their day.
There is one topic that is always on minds these days and that is cleanliness and sterilization. Humans just learned an entire new way of living, new way of cleaning, and new way of observing how well their environments are being cleaned. This needs to be a top priority for your dental clinic!!! The best way to ensure your staff “functions” in a clean work environment is to design with an open concept. Let your patients see into the sterilization area, let your patients see into your modeling room, let your patients know that you and your staff are committed to a safe environment. When completing the dental office layout, think about how “open concept” working will be a constant reminder to staff to keep countertops cleared, sinks emptied, and trays always washed. This makes everyone more accountable and aware of what they will leave behind when they walk away, and will compel your team to “function” with CLEANLINESS as a key part of the day.