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    Form and a lot of function

    How ambient technologies can make your dentistry better.


    Form vs. function

    There is a balance to be struck between an item’s utility and how esthetically pleasing it is. Ideally, the product would serve both needs, but it’s important not to lose sight of why that product is being used in the first place.

    “In my mind, it’s always function first, because if you don’t create cabinetry that supports proper ergonomics, proper flow, all the beautiful cabinetry in the world is not going to do you any good,” Treon observes. “So it’s always function first, but one of the things that we found out is that, actually, especially if you look at our Artizan Expressions line, why we have moved forward with more esthetics in our line is because that has become very important to the dental market, and they do put a lot of weight as to how the cabinetry looks.

    “You have to think, ‘They are big pieces of furniture in your facility, and they do hold a big design element,’” she continues. “So how we balance it is that we go out, we talk to our customers, we spend a lot of time in the market. For example, when we came out with our Artizan Expressions line about three years ago, back that up two-and-a-half-years prior when we were talking to customers, we took research cabinets out in the field, we compared them to our competitors, we got customer feedback on what they wanted from looks, but also, another factor about cabinetry is that it also has to be very price competitive. Because they want something that looks good, but it also has to prove its value for what they’re getting.”

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    It always goes back to what the customer wants and what the customer needs.

    “I selfishly want it all,” Dr. Rice laughs. “I would prefer to work with a manufacturer who can deliver it all; and as a customer, I have to have the foresight in this process, not only what looks nice today, but what will look nice in 10 years? What’s going to come in and out of style as far as the look goes?”

    Dr. Rice was able to get a professional’s help when selecting his office’s cabinetry—one of his good friends is an interior designer for Ethan Allen.

    “He was part of our team when we designed our practice,” Dr. Rice says. “When we went to the manufacturer and came back and said, functionally, this is the stuff we need, the first thing he said was, ‘Show me every possible finish.’ And then he said, ‘Choose this color with this pattern, and choose this countertop to go with it, and it’ll not only function well but it’ll look great and you’ll fit the culture and style of what we are trying to achieve. 

    “Because our patients don’t understand the function,” he continues. “We understand how they feel when they walk into our practice. I’ve seen too many dental practices that have a really rocking reception area, and then as soon as you get into the clinical areas, it feels like a sterile hospital environment, and that scares the heck out of a patient, so pulling all of those worlds together is really important.”

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    How to choose

    Selecting your technology can seem daunting—there are any number of variables, including function and personal tastes. However, there are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind.

    “Do your homework,” Treon advises. “The questions I always go back to when I talk to customers is, ‘What is it that they’re really trying to achieve with their cabinetry? What are the most important things?’”

    She adds, “Some questions I’ll ask them are, ‘What kinds of features do I want for my cabinetry?’, ‘What do I like or dislike about my current cabinetry?’, ‘In what ways will they be incorporating equipment and technology now and in the future?’, ‘How important is the decor of their office?, ‘Are esthetics important to them, or are they more concerned about the function of equipment?’, ‘Are supplies easy to reach?’, ‘Are countertops cluttered in their current space?’, ‘Will they have CPUs?’, ‘Will they have monitors?’, ‘How are they going to use it?’, ‘How are they going to support their current workflow?’”

    Leduc says the most important thing is to explain your specific needs upfront. “The best way is to have [dentists] tell us their individual needs,” he says. “Simply talk to us. We work together with each dentist to provide the ideal system for them. Not only do we want our customers to use our equipment and solutions at their full potential, we also strive to make dentists as efficient and effective as they can be. Only then can we truly advance the industry and the practice of dentistry.”

    Dr. Flucke also offers a reminder that it is important not to lose sight of your mission.

    “The one little mantra that I try to have with bringing things in, if they are clinical pieces, is I say, ‘It has to give me at least as good result as I’m getting now,’” he says. “At best it improves my dentistry; at worst it keeps it the same. If it then allows me to do it faster, quicker, less painfully, gives the patient less time in the office as a patient, then that’s kind of the tipping point for me.”

    Adding or changing ambient technologies is not something a doctor should do without his team’s input.

    “I would highly encourage all dentists to recruit their teams,” Dr. Rice says. “Go to their team and say, ‘I’m the leader of this team and I have to make a decision; however, before we’re going to make this investment let’s get everybody’s thoughts on it.’ My hygiene team knows far better what they need than I might know, because minute-by-minute they’re working in their own space. When we built our practice, for example, we went to every single team member and said, ‘Hey, in your perfect world, functionally, what does your space look like? What would help you do your job best?’ So I’m a big fan of engaging the team and letting them know that decisions need to be made. The wish list may not be what the wish list was when it got put on paper, but their input is important, both from a function standpoint as well as from an empowerment standpoint.”

    Ambient technologies aren’t just insignificant features. While they may seem small and insignificant, they help doctors and staff do a better job for their patients

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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