Building a new facility or start-up practice can be one of the most daunting things for a dentist in their career. According to the national average; a dentist will practice in 3 different facilities throughout their career. That is a lot of potential stress related to the design, construction and equipping of a facility.
The good news is that there are amazing dental professionals like Dr. Mark Tholen there to help make this process one of opportunity and excitement.
Dr. Tholen is the past CEO of T.H.E. Design, Inc. and the author of “A Guide to Designing the Elegant Dental or Medical Office…The Largest Marketing Tool of Your Career” and has been involved in the construction of over 3,000 dental offices.
He is also the principal educator at Pelton & Crane’s Driven to Excellence program which has been instrumental in providing dentists with the confidence needed to build the RIGHT dental practice for their needs.
Recently, we had the privilege of discussing some of the ins and outs of new offices with Dr. Tholen.
Here is a summary of that interview:
A: There are a few “no-brainers” that apply to every office. As a general rule, 70-80% of all offices are incorrectly sized for what they are trying to accomplish, so I begin with two questions.
First, do you finish on time regularly? And by that I mean do you finish every day and at lunch on time by utilizing your facility to manipulate your time? Most times, the answer to this question is no.
Second, I ask how they handle an emergency patient in terms of fitting them into the schedule. As a general rule, getting an emergency patient in involves great upheaval in the schedule for most offices because there is not a pre-planned operatory to put the emergency in. This means other patients get backed up and the office runs late because the facility is not set up to handle this relatively normal occurrence.
A: There is more to it than just how you handle an emergency, but yes, how you handle an emergency is key for the marketing of your practice.
For example, if a patient has lost a crown and needs to be re-cemented and you don’t have time in the schedule for a couple of days, that isn’t exactly a practice-building moment.
The higher end of a practice you want to have requires a higher level of customer service provided, and your facility needs to be in tune with that.
A: First and foremost, there are not enough operatories. Your average middle-aged practice needs at least 5 to 6 operatories just to support a single practitioner.
The Dentist needs 2 to practice out of, 2-3 for hygiene or assisted hygiene and 1 for emergency patients. That extra unbooked room is generally worth an additional 10-15% in revenue, so it has a strong return on investment.
Additionally, there is not enough support space for those operatories. As a general rule, a dental practice needs 500 Sq/ft of office space per operatory to adequately support it.
A: First, I would advise any established practice to focus their financial efforts on the equipment, size and functionality of the space rather than the location.
For patients, choosing which dentist they visit is not like picking a restaurant to dine at. It is not an impulse buy.
70-80% of new patients come from referrals which means you will get a lot more bang for your buck by putting money into a great-looking facility with new equipment than you will by going into a high-traffic area.
A: Everything is networked today, so you need you have a protected (in PVC) category 6 cable that is easy to adjust on the fly. Be prepared to be flexible on where your technology goes.
Second, you need a place to store this new technology. I would call it a “High Tech Parking Lot.” This needs to be built into the plan so you don’t just have a piece of technology sitting in a main hallway because there is no place to house it.
Finally, server rooms have become like second mechanical rooms and need to have access to technicians and excellent ventilation.
A: There are several “a-ha” moments throughout the program, but the moment a new facility goes from an idea to a belief that a dentist can actually build the practice he or she has dreamed of and it will produce the desired results is special.
Most people come to DTE with an idea of what they think they need, and after the program, they generally leave with a completely different idea of what they want and the confidence to make it happen.
We open with why it is important to consider the environment, but we close with a case study that everyone in the room can relate to. This case study demonstrates what happens to the patient base and financial results of practice for 3 years after building a new facility. We show this across several different locals and the results are the same.
New facilities attract new patients, drive referrals and increase production…significantly!