Create a Memorable Patient Experience through Dental Office Interior Design and Decor
One of the easiest ways to create a memorable patient experience is through the amazing dental office design and decor that defines your practice atmosphere!
Some questions you might be asking yourself right now:
- Why is design so important to patients?
- What design elements should you focus on?
- How do you choose a design style?
All good questions, and they’re exactly why we created this guide!
Our commitment to dental office design and decor is way more than a picture here and a dab of color there to brighten things up. It’s about creating an experience. You see, patients may not be able to gauge your skill as a dentist. Instead, patients will evaluate you based on the atmosphere and overall feeling they have while in your space. It’s all about the brand atmosphere you have created in your office.
Ready? Let’s roll up our sleeves for some design and decor heavy-lifting. It’s worth the effort!
Outstanding design is among the best ways you can totally re-define your dental practice atmosphere. It's important because the patient experience starts on arrival at your facility.
Patient experience is the conscious and subconscious connection your patients make with your dental practice, and your design strategy plays a huge role in it.
Design does three essential things:
- It’s stimulating to the senses.
- It evokes emotion (like comfort and confidence).
- It aligns with a patient’s entire experience.
From the reception area to the operatory, interior design carries a lot of weight. It’s about creating the perfect balance of aesthetics (visual appeal) and overall vibe (emotional appeal).
Your interior design strategy should consistently create an outstanding patient experience through functionality. Here’s a brief look at how to do it.
Achieve a Balance in Functionality
Dental design serves your patients through visual and emotional appeal. At the same time it provides your team a more efficient layout to connect and engage with your patients.
- Focus on your layout. An outstanding patient experience follows a carefully managed path from parking lot to front entry, from the reception area to treatment area, etc.
- Maximize your floor space. A useful layout shouldn’t impede traffic flow or team efficiency.
In reception, ensure there is a clear path from the front door to the check-in desk, whether that's keeping the legs of sitting people out of that path, or just having clear signage of where to go. In treatment, try to create a one way flow so patients arriving and patients leaving are not bumping into each other in the hall.
- Think ergonomically. Style matters to the extent that it creates a comfortable and anxiety-free patient experience.
For example, consider what makes waiting room seating comfortable. Solid chairs are durable, but be sure they are not too hard that waiting is uncomfortable. Make sure they are easy to clean - no one wants to sit on a stain from where a previous guest spilled a coffee. Sturdy arm rests are great for patients to rest their elbows as they’ll probably be looking at their phones.
- Serve all of your visitors. Consider the type of patients you frequently see and ensure there’s a space for all of them. Baby strollers, kids, teens, parents, grandparents, wheelchairs - they all have different needs!
Create a Comfortable and Ergonomic-friendly Atmosphere
Ergonomics are a big deal to your team especially. They’ll deliver a better patient experience when they’re ergonomically equipped.
- Apply efficiency and ergonomic planning in your clinical areas. Healthy movement and reach are a design decision.
By labeling and organizing the treatment room and decreasing the distance you have to reach for supplies, you can actually save a quantifiable amount of time, and therefore, money for your business.
- Make sure you and your staff are comfortable and can move freely throughout your workspace without bumping into equipment or stretching in pain. Choose ergonomic chairs and consider the placement of cabinets and counters.
- Enhance the front-desk team’s patient contact points. Design around improving their routine task performance.
A bad desk design can create awkward interactions when, for example, when a receptionists have to stand and lean over large desks to hand over paperwork. How can your desk be designed for ease of use to avoid this?
- Utilize design amenities that enhance patient comfort, convenience, and easier treatment.
Walk around your clinic as if you were a patient. What obstacles get in your way? Is there a place for your bag or purse? Is it easy to get lost or turn the wrong way upon leaving a treatment area? Consider where color coding areas, including wayfinding arrows, or adding purse and coat hooks will subtly improve a patient’s interaction within your space.
Design and decor isn’t just for aesthetic, it’s for function and ease of use for you, your staff, as well as your patients. If your office design is clunky, confusing, or uncomfortable, patients may form a negative opinion of your skills and practice.
Now let’s take a look at why design plays a vital role in how you acquire patients.
Acquiring new, lifelong patients isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s a journey that begins with their first appointment and thrives on a series of positive experiences with your clinic.
How well your office is optimized for patient acquisition sets the pace for that journey.
Patient interaction is at the mercy of a lot of variables. Staff attitude, care standards, service availability, insurance acceptance, and more have an impact.
But what about office design?
Suffice to say, it matters big time!
Your overall practice atmosphere (or vibe) has an effect on patient acquisition. New patients are especially discerning about your attention to “environmental” details, like:
- Stress-reducing amenities.
- Entertainment and distractions.
- Visible safety and infection control practices.
- General cleanliness.
Your office environment must help you achieve the best possible healthcare outcomes. To a client modern, clean decor = modern, effective dental care. You see, patients may not be able to gauge your education and skill as a dentist, especially compared to every other dentist in their neighborhood. Instead, they will evaluate you based on the atmosphere and overall feeling they have while in your space.
So, how do you set the stage so patients feel confident sticking around for a lifetime of oral care?
1. Give Attention to Overall Design Details
Those details apply from curb to chair. Visibility, traffic flow, parking, access ease, and facility flow are major points in a patient acquisition design strategy. Take the time to contemplate your patient’s entire interaction with ‘arriving’ at your office taking into account the needs of everyone.
Are your front staff easily visible and ready to welcome guests. Are you likely to have visitors with strollers? How about those with other accessibility needs? Is there a trash can near the entrance to ensure the outside area stays tidy?
2. Set the Mood in Your Front Office and Reception Area
You might be surprised to know that your entry space is where patients often feel more in control in their experience with your clinic. That first welcoming feeling they get sets the tone for their relationship with your practice. You want your patients to arrive at a well-lit, modern reception area where your team is easily noticed and ready to welcome patients inside without obstacles. A well designed reception tells your patients that you care about their comfort.
3. Build Relationships
New patients arrive at a healthcare appointment with a few biases. It’s typically nothing personal but more about perception. Work hard to establish and build a relationship through your environment and their anxieties are likely to vanish.
4. Listen and Inform
Patient interactions and related conversations give you an opportunity to deepen your relationship with them. Design your office flow for an enhanced listening and informational experience. Give them a designated space to be heard, educated, and to comfortably evaluate your treatment recommendations.
What does this space look like in your mind - should you sit across from your patient or on a couch with them to create more familiarity? Is it a private space or in the treatment area?
Patient acquisition is a two-fold process. It’s one part environmental and one part relational. Give some attention to the details by checking out this related resource: Important Details for Optimizing Your Office for Patient Acquisition
This isn’t just about being unique for the sake of uniqueness. By now, you’ve hopefully discovered that it’s mostly about being intentional with your design initiatives.
Everyone needs a dentist, but where will they choose to go? A place with features that set you apart from the competition while maintaining high care standards. An office with a welcoming, clean, professional, and fun atmosphere or "brand environment".
How does design help create a brand environment? "Brand" is what people think of when they hear your name. It goes beyond your logo or a mascot. Your space helps create that brand as much as a promotional video or office uniforms.
Create a Positive “Feeling” or “Vibe”.
Design does that. It’s what you feel when you walk into a restaurant, business, event, or venue. Make sure your office creates a positive atmosphere the moment your patients step through your door. You’ll know you’ve achieved this when:
- Positive emotions are engaged, such as kids smiling/laughing in the play area.
- Patients feel at-ease before, during, and after their appointments.
- Their confidence in your expertise and services is confirmed and your brand is solidified.
Color It Up
Color schemes affect emotions. Choose a color palette that creates the emotional appeal you desire for your patient experience.
- Natural, wood tones (e.g. browns), and masonry create a warm, cozy feel.
- Modern, trendy colors (e.g. coffee shop-like) provide a relaxing, chill vibe.
- Bright, fun colors to evoke childlike wonder.
Go Natural with Your Lighting
There’s a particular ambiance that’s created using natural lighting. It’s also energizing, much like the feeling you get being in the direct sunlight.
- Patients and staff will get a welcome emotional boost from natural features.
- Consider facing the chairs in your treatment rooms toward visibly appealing outdoor areas.
- Mimic natural light using designated lighting solutions.
Keep the Atmosphere Engaging and Entertaining
Your choices here can be informative as well as visually stimulating. Focus entertainment features on the age demographics. You’ll inspire trust and enhance patient and family comfort when you effectively use this brand of creative design.
- Bead tables and KeeBee play boards for your littlest patients.
- Slides and cushioned floors for older kids to promote active play for getting out their energy before an appointment.
- Tablet gaming and arcades for older kids and teens.
Maximize Your Waiting Area
This space is way more than a room. It can set the tone for their entire appointment. Nerves are calmed and relaxation rules here.
- Position your seating options for patient comfort more than space usage.
- Provide chairs that accommodate all ages and body types. Consider using benches so parents and children can sit together comfortably as they would at home on the couch.
- Comfortable seating is a good start, but not enough. A mini fridge, coffee maker, and snack bar truly make you feel at home. The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach.
- Give patients mental-space through free wifi, informative or entertaining video content, and relaxing (low-volume) music.
- Speaking of videos, consider making a private theater area for kids, so parents can watch the news in the main area while kids watch age appropriate movies or cartoons.
- Consider adding themed decor to transform a waiting area into another world entirely, with distractions and entertainment.
Make it Personal
Personalization detail helps your patients get acquainted with you and your team. A personal touch throughout your design helps mask the common, clinical feel of your office.
A family photo hangs in the waiting room of this dental office.
- Use framed personal photos and stage personal memorabilia throughout.
- Use local artwork or community themed photos to promote engagement with your clinic location.
Make it Familiar
Adding decor that represents recognizable themes to your patients will create instant familiarity.
- Add a local theme to your office. If you’re in a beach town, decorate with a beach theme by adding murals of sandy shores and a fun beach hut play area. If you’re near the mountains, create a woodland or cabin theme.
- Theme your office by recreating a local landmark in a kid-friendly way.
- If you’re in a sports town, theme your office around the favorite local sports team. Mascots, murals of football fields or baseball diamonds, plus some fun sports paraphernalia.
Design and decor is about creating a feeling that patients experience when they arrive, throughout their appointment, and after they depart. Stay relevant and discover more about doing so through - How to Create a Unique Dental Experience in 2021 (and Beyond)
Get your creative gears moving as you browse these examples of engaging dental decor that show how design and ergonomic innovation can enhance how patients respond to dentistry.
Make Your Office Bright, Colorful, and Illuminating
A new coat of paint instantly transforms a space. Select colors that “pop” to create the mood you want.
Make Your Office Open and Minimalist
An open treatment area gives patients psychological “air.” Pairing it with a minimal design and some well-placed lighting enhancements helps your space feel less closed-in.
Make Your Office Comfortable and Relaxing - That “At Home” Feel
Rather than the traditional rows of chairs, magazines, and few tables here and there, change up the vibe to feel more relaxed. Think comfortable, homey chairs, a fireplace, or a pub-table workspace with self-serve amenities and charging stations. Creating an environment where patients feel comfortable and at home encourages them to create trust and familiarity with your business.
Make Your Office Unique, Posh, or Trendy
An upscale patient base has a particular taste in decor - a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. Glam or posh, urban or trendy - these design themes won’t make your patients feel stuffy or uncomfortable. If your patients have a great experience at your clinic, they’re more likely to recommend it to their friends and family as well.
For specifics about how these images can inspire your dental design and decor, the following resources is an inspirational journey into how each can be applied to your unique setting:
6 Dental Office Images That Show How Intentional Design Impacts Patient Experience
A well-designed dental office isn’t just a passing trend, it’s an important factor for a successful business.
The best interior design for a kid-centric office is themed decor. Theming your clinic will help relax your anxious patients, because they won’t feel like they are at a cold or “sterile” dental office. Entertaining elements like indoor playgrounds and colorful decor will draw children, families, and adults into your space. Designing your clinic around a theme can help pediatric patients relax before, during, after their appointment.
Make Your Office Decor Kid and Family Friendly
In dental practices, a welcoming environment helps reduce anxiety and relax patients, making them better primed for a successful appointment. Here are 7 of the top family-friendly styles to inspire your pediatric dental office design and decor.
1. Go Retro
A retro theme creates a feeling of nostalgia, like a Disney theme park, which enhances that sense of familiarity patients can identify with.
2. Go “Green”
Green design is great for mental and physical well-being. Real plants, and even pictures of green landscapes, help to calm and mind and promote healing.
3. Go for Characters
If you’re looking to add some creativity to your office, build an “immersive” world around a character mascot to drive your brand.
4. Go with Color
Children prefer bright colors as they are easy to differentiate with their young, developing sight. They use colors to make sense of objects and spaces so they find bright colored objects more appealing and stimulating.
5. Go with a Genre
A genre theme creates an “immersive” experience for your patients. It’s an out-of-the-ordinary design that transports your patients to another world.
6. Go for Playfulness
Kids want to play. And they’re more likely to engage with their dental appointments if you recognize this and make play options available.
7. Go All-in (and Out)
From the exterior to the interior, a “wow-factor” happens when you go all-in on theming. Let families know you cater to children as they drive by or when they enter your facility.
For specifics about how these images can inspire your dental design and decor, the following resource is an inspirational journey into how each can be applied to your unique setting:
Our Top 8 Pediatric Dental Office Styles to Inspire Your Design Strategy
Have a pediatric office? Get great design ideas to help improve the experience of your young patients with inspiring ideas in this free design resource from IDS.
Medical offices and hospitals can be seen as stressful places to young children and their families. But good design and decor can help alleviate that stress.
There are essentially three things that young patients and their families are looking for design to deliver:
1. Confidence in the care environment.
2. Engaging distractions that promote positive emotions.
3. Hope for positive health outcomes.
That said, what is actually driving the trends in design for a pediatric office? Here are some best practices whether you’re designing a new clinic or redesigning your current one.
Include Features That Positively Engage Patients and Families Throughout Your Facility
“Intentional distraction” is one way to think about it, though we recommend creating engagement rather than just distraction. It’s truly about creating a relaxing, non-aversive response the moment a child or family arrives on site.
Select your design choices to fit the varying age demographics of your practice.
- Young patients enjoy interactive spaces, like indoor playgrounds and play panels.
- Teenagers appreciate high-tech spaces with age-appropriate technology options, like gaming tablets or consoles.
Encourage Care Partnership with a Family-centric Design
Optimum care for a child is the goal regardless of who the accompanying caregiver is. Your chosen design can and should support their role.
Basically, family-centric design emphasizes comfort and some sense of familiarity. In medical facilities, attention to detail helps families and children adapt to the potential life upheaval a medical appointment or extended care stay can cause.
Design Your Medical Clinic Layout so it’s Easy and Comfortable to Navigate
Consider design solutions that provide emotionally sensitive “traffic flow” throughout your facility. Traditional design, such as a long, exam room filled hallway, can feel overly sterile and insensitive.
Create a “neighborhood” feel. Incorporate “blocks” or “zones” throughout that have their own unique vibe appropriate to the patient’s age, etc. This helps reduce patient and family stress.
Evaluate your standard of care and your design around the healing results you desire for the patient experience.
Design must embrace the human element. The more compartmentalized the patient space becomes by design intention, the better.
- Separate treatment space physically and emotionally from inpatient spaces.
- Include special needs in your design strategy (e.g. autistic patients with stimulation issues, etc).
- Provide nature access when possible. Outdoor venues create a calming, stress-free environment for care.
These design benchmarks form a clear path into the future of pediatric clinic design. Explore each more thoroughly in this insightful resource: What is the Future of Pediatric Medical Office Design?
Your clinic “vibe” is an intentional strategy. It combines theming, colors, entertaining elements, and more to create a brand atmosphere.
As we’ve covered here - a memorable patient experience can lead to long-term patient loyalty.
Explore some additional theme-based guidance in this related resource: Whether Your Office is Big or Small, We Have Options to Theme It All
Trust the Design Experts
It’s tempting to go DIY on your dental design, but the cost savings of doing so aren’t worth missing out on professional expertise. Design experts:
- Know how to create the unique vibe you want for your patient experience.
- Have the tools and technology to align design with clinical protocols.
- Have cost-saving access to vendors.
- Do their “thing” while you and your team do yours.
Dental design and decor are an intentional step towards creating an outstanding patient experience. Go deeper into the role of design by exploring How to Create a Dental Design Strategy That Enhances Patient Experience
Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) for more dental design and decor resources. Get started transforming your office from a mundane to magical patient experience.