Starting an orthodontic practice is an exciting journey with the promise of transforming smiles and enhancing lives. But before diving into office design and patient care, orthodontic practitioners must first focus on securing financing for their practice offices. This crucial initial step lays the groundwork for success and demands thorough research, strategic planning, and assertive negotiation with banks. In this tailored guide, we'll highlight the importance of exploring loan options and understanding borrowing ability as the absolute first step in the start-up process, along with insights on how to negotiate effectively with banks to secure favorable terms.
1. Making Financing a Priority: The Essential Starting Point:
Before tackling any other aspect of setting up a practice, orthodontic practitioners must prioritize securing funding for their office spaces. Without sufficient financial backing, even the most brilliant ideas and skills may struggle to take off. By placing financing at the forefront, practitioners establish a solid foundation for their practice's growth and prosperity.
2. Exploring Loan Options: Tapping into National and Local Bank Resources:
Orthodontic practitioners should cast a wide net when considering loan options, both from national institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and PNC, as well as local banks. These banks offer tailored start-up loan programs for healthcare professionals. Local banks may offer a more personalized touch and a better grasp of community needs. By researching and comparing various loan options, practitioners can make well-informed decisions aligned with their practice objectives.
3. Assessing Borrowing Ability: Understanding Financial Health and Projections:
Understanding borrowing capacity is paramount in the start-up phase. Practitioners must evaluate their financial standing, including personal and business credit histories, assets, and liabilities. Projecting future cash flows and revenue streams helps determine the ability to handle debt responsibly. By conducting a thorough financial assessment, practitioners can confidently approach banks and negotiate terms that suit their needs.
4. Negotiating Assertively with Banks: Advocating for Favorable Terms:
Negotiation plays a pivotal role in securing financing. Orthodontic practitioners should approach banks with confidence, advocating for terms that reflect their borrowing capacity and anticipated business growth. This might involve negotiating lower interest rates, flexible repayment schedules, or reduced collateral requirements. Demonstrating a clear understanding of their financial needs and the value they bring can strengthen their negotiation position.
5. Seeking Professional Guidance: Leveraging Expertise for Informed Decision-Making:
For orthodontic practitioners seeking expert assistance in finding the best funding options tailored to their practice, White Glove Orthodontist Consulting (WGO Consulting) is here to help. With specialized knowledge and experience in healthcare financing, WGO Consulting offers personalized guidance and support throughout the loan exploration and negotiation journey. Partnering with WGO Consulting equips orthodontic practitioners with valuable resources and insights to secure the funding needed to realize their practice's vision.
Be sure to read my article in Orthotown about our experience managing an orthodontic satellite office within a general dentistry practice.
The rise of outsourcing in the United States gained significant momentum in the late 20th century, marking a pivotal shift in the way businesses approached non-core functions. The 1980s and 1990s saw a surge in globalization, technological advancements, and increased competition, prompting many industries to explore more efficient and cost-effective business models. Companies, including those in the healthcare sector, began outsourcing various tasks, such as billing, customer service, and information technology, to specialized service providers. This strategic shift allowed businesses to tap into global talent pools, leverage economies of scale, and focus on their core competencies. The outsourcing trend has since evolved, with orthodontic practices now considering it as a viable option to optimize their operations and enhance overall practice management.
Given this summary of outsourcing, one should not blankly assume that outsourcing leads to efficiency and cost savings. In fact, the opposite order is what makes sense. Out or insourcing should be done with the goal of efficiency and cost saving. In this blog post, I would like to focus on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the clear aligner fabrication for startup offices.
The most common area of outsourcing for most orthodontic startup practices is in their clear aligner fabrication. Most commonly using a big company such as Invisalign or Angel Aligners to fabricate aligners and package them ready for use. The opposite to this would be systemizing in-house aligners from the get-go from day one. In truth, at the time of writing this article, no clinician can truly insource the clear aligner manufacturing process entirely; at the minimum, you would need the software to section teeth and stage movements. This being said, in-house aligners provide more opportunities for clinicians.
Do in-house aligners increase the efficiency of an orthodontic startup office?
There is one area in which startups do better than established offices, which is capacity. There is going to be a lot of downtime for the doctor or the team in between patients or on admin days. The downtime can certainly be used by having the team focus on in-house aligner fabrication. There is nothing more efficient than having someone else make your clincheck, for you to finesse it and again, having that someone else fabricate and package the aligners.
The in-house aligners, however, have better turnaround time. You can scan today and see your patient later on the same week to deliver their attachments and aligners. The average turnaround time for outsourced aligners is about 3-4 weeks. Invisalign allows providers to “rush” cases and have them back the following week.
Are in-house aligners more cost-effective than outsourced aligners?
To answer the above questions, we need to do some math and make some assumptions. For the purpose of this argument, I use Invisalign and Angel Aligners as examples of outsourced aligners and use their pricing to compare. For in-house aligners, I’d use Archform as an example of a pretty cost-effective aligner system. At the time of writing this article, Invisalign has a promotion which allows some discounts for a comprehensive case to allow the final lab fee to land around $1400; Angel Aligners also has a promotional pricing of $850 lab fee for a full case. Here are probably the most conservative cost breakdown for in-house aligners:
1. Software use: $50 per case
2. Resin cost per arch: $1.5
3. Aligner plastic per arch: $2.5
4. Packaging bags for aligner set: $1
5. Other auxiliary materials such as alcohol for wash: $0.5 per set
6. Assuming your RDA is paid $20/hr and takes them 15 mins total for print/wash/trim/fabrication: $5 per set
Total cost per set of aligners: $14.5
Please note the above numbers do not include the cost of the hardware purchase and repairs. The resin used is a generic resin such as Elegoo and the printers are entry-level Epax or Phrozen 3D printers. If dental-specific printers or resin are used, the cost will be even higher. Considering the lowest fee for a comprehensive case out there from a reputable company, Angel Aligners, which is $850, your cost with in-house aligners will essentially be the same as outsourcing if you were to use a total of 27 aligners per arch in your treatment; this is inclusive of all refinement. Comprehensive cases often need more than 27 aligner sets during their treatment. In short, in-house aligners are only cost-effective in mild limited treatments.
For full objectivity, I am comparing the least expensive set of in-house and outsourced aligner fabrication processes. Comparing the Angel to more expensive in-house setups makes outsourcing even more cost-effective. Comparing in-house aligners to Invisalign makes in-house a more affordable option in cases needing less than 50 sets of aligners.
How does aligner fabrication affect your cash flow?
Cash flow is likely to be the number one pain point for any startup practice. Outsourced aligners usually come with Net60 financing, meaning the entire lab bill is due in 60 days. Lab bills can be particularly challenging for startups when the cash flow is not there to support it. On the other hand, in-house aligners are the unbeatable champions of cash flow in the short and mid-term range. You only pay for what you need, so if you require 20 aligners, that is what you pay for. This approach can significantly reduce the stress on the practice's cash flow.
My overall take on insourcing clear plastic is that clear retainers must always be made in-house, but insourcing clear aligners helps in short run with alleviating cash flow pains but can actually be more expensive in long run for comprehensive aligner treatments.
Disclaimer: Dr. Kevin Baharvand has no financial interest in any of the products or services mentioned in the blog.
Product Overview and Utility:
Cloud9 Orthodontic Software is designed to streamline orthodontic practice management, providing a comprehensive solution for professionals in the field. Its primary utility is in offering orthodontic practitioners a platform to efficiently manage patient information, treatment plans, and scheduling.
1. Performance and Quality (4 stars):
- The performance of Cloud9 Orthodontic Software is quite well, meeting the basic requirements of orthodontic practice management. Cloud9 operates entirely in the cloud, eliminating the need to download additional software except for the Twain connection between X-ray equipment and Cloud9. The overall loading speed is satisfactory, with few disconnections reported in our practices over the past few years.
2. Features (2 stars):
- Cloud9 Orthodontic Software provides essential features for orthodontic professionals but may lack some innovative functionalities. Notably, features such as electronic signatures, patient hub, two-way texting, appointment reminders, and reputation management come at an additional cost. A additional significant drawback is the need for multiple phone lines for texting, reminders, and calls, potentially causing confusion for patients.
3. Ease of Use (3 stars):
- The software's clinical interface is generally user-friendly, offering an intuitive layout for managing orthodontic tasks. However, the administrative side, including ledgers, is somewhat counterintuitive, presenting a steep learning curve for users.
4. Customer Service (2 stars):
- Cloud9's customer service has experienced a decline since its acquisition by PlanetDDs. As of the writing of this article, contacting Cloud9 customer care is not possible through direct calls; users need to open a ticket and wait for a reply.
5. Value for Money (3 stars):
- Cloud9 Orthodontic Software provides moderate value for the cost, meeting essential needs. However, perceived as potentially overpriced, especially when factoring in additional features. The all-inclusive version may cost around $1300-1400 per month, excluding initial licensing, training, and implementation fees. Prices may vary significantly among offices based on initial promotions.
6. User Experience (3 stars):
- The overall user experience with Cloud9 is positive, but dissatisfaction has been expressed regarding the decline in customer support post the PlanetDDS takeover and the additional costs associated with extra features.
7. Reliability (5 stars):
- Cloud9 Orthodontic Software is generally reliable, with occasional minor issues.
8. Innovation (3 stars):
- While Cloud9 was once a leader in orthodontic PMS innovation, it now strives to keep up with other software's features. The software lacks significant innovation, offering standard features without introducing groundbreaking functionalities. Their mobile version is far from easy to use.
9. Compatibility (4 stars):
- Cloud9 is compatible with various systems, minimizing compatibility issues for users. Ongoing efforts to ensure seamless integration with other platforms would further enhance the software's appeal.
10. Customization (4 stars):
- The schedule and clinical side of the software are customizable, but the administrative side has limitations in terms of customization.
11. Feedback and Reviews (3 stars):
- User feedback for Cloud9 is mixed, encompassing both positive and negative comments. It's worth noting that we have decided to transition away from Cloud9 for our practices around April 2024.
- 1. Greyfinch
- 2. Ortho2
- 3. Wave Ortho
Disclaimer: Dr. Kevin Baharvand has no financial interest in Cloud9/PlanetDDS.
UCR stands for Usual, Customary, and Reasonable. It is essentially what you would like to charge for someone who is paying all expenses out of pocket or not in network with their insurance plan. You must set your UCR as one of your early tasks before opening your startup. Numbers can be all over the place, and there is no exact formula to determine that. I hope these tips can help you set the UCRs to what is best for your practice:
1. Demographics and Local Competition: Take a good look at what differentiates you compared to solo or corporate competition. If you are already working in an office, use that as a starting point and set yours higher or lower depending on your answer to the differentiation question. You need to position yourself well in the market, not too high or too low.
2. Use ADA Annual Survey as a Guideline: Take it with a grain of salt as most participants are not orthodontists.
3. Use Gaidge Summary of Dental Practices: Gaidge has more data compared to ADA from actual orthodontic offices, so their information is likely to be more reliable. However, most startup orthodontic practices do not use Gaidge, so their data is skewed towards established mid to high-performing practices.
4. Get in Touch with Insurance Companies: Obtain their fee schedule. Aim to be at least 30-40% higher than the best-paying insurance. Insurance fee schedules are set based on the demographics and number of the local providers.
5. Talk to Friends or Colleagues: Keep in mind that their demographics may be different than yours.
6. Tiered UCR Pricing: You may choose to have multiple levels of pricing for the same code. This way, you can be compensated fairly for the complexity of the clinical case or patient management.
A common question we get is whether UCR even matters if your practice is in-network with insurance plans. The answer is a strong yes! Your UCR will be a strong tool for negotiating your fees with insurance plans at the startup process and also down the road. My last piece of advice is to be diligent in adjusting your UCR yearly in parallel with the inflation in service industries.
Change prompts a spectrum of emotions, from anticipation to frustration. Within the structure of everyday routines, team members often find comfort, making the prospect of change a daunting one. Yet, for practice leaders, recognizing the need for dynamic evolution is imperative—a strategic response to the evolving demands of the industry within and outside our practices.
The initial stages of change, such as team restructuring or transitioning to new software platforms, may present challenges. However, beneath these disruptions lie opportunities for process improvement and increased efficiency.
I remember when my first team member submitted her two weeks' notice. She had to leave my team due to her husband’s job change. Oh man! I felt so let down. I was genuinely naïve enough to think she might one day retire with us. Fast forward a few weeks, we replaced her with a new member and never looked back. We were able to implement changes during the transition with no resistance and became a lot more efficient. In fact, most of the team members you start your startup with will not be with you after a few years. In my opinion, it's because your practice grows faster than they do. As I said earlier, change can be daunting for some.
2024 is the year of changes in our practices. We are planning to retire Orthofi, Cloud9, and Align in our practices. To do so, we need to have systems in place to avoid setbacks. We also need extensive team training for both learning and executing the new programs. In a nutshell, our entire new patient onboarding, financing, and communications will change. My goal is to lower our overall overhead by about 10% by the end of 2024.
Navigating change is a strategic process—a measured response to uncertainty. As practice leaders, our role is to guide our teams through these shifts, offering support, reassurance, and a clear vision for the path ahead. There are those who will tag along and others who may find comfort elsewhere.
I recently had a conversation with a close orthodontist friend practicing in Texas, discussing the potential of hiring a marketing agency to help new patient onboarding at their one-year-old orthodontic office. They were quoted $7,000-$8,000 monthly for these services. Frankly, I was astounded by the price tag. At $7,000 a month, that amounts to $84,000 annually for digital marketing and social media management. This got me thinking: How do we determine the tipping point for what's too much to pay for a product or service? How can we gauge affordability versus prudent spending? Additionally, what's the return on investment (ROI) for such an expenditure?
Traditionally (and regrettably), many companies offering services or products to orthodontists set their fees based on the average fees an orthodontist charges per case. They often justify their high costs with statements like, "If you start just one more case each month, my service will pay for itself." Every time I hear this, my blood pressure rises. Is it purely coincidental that the aforementioned marketing agency's charges slightly exceed the fee for starting an orthodontic case? I'll let you decide.
The exorbitant cost of services extends to orthodontic consulting firms as well. When we were launching our first orthodontic startup, I interviewed three firms but opted not to engage any due to the staggering $30,000-$40,000 price tags attached to their cookie-cutter approaches and plans. When I questioned why I should allocate about 8-10% of my entire loan to just one service, their reply echoed the previous sentiment: "We'll help you start this many more cases, which will cover our fees."
The list of remarkably high-priced services catered to orthodontists could go on endlessly. An architect firm I considered (needless to say did not hire) charged fees amounting to 10% of my total loan, in the range of $50,000. Although their designs were exceptional, I couldn't help but wonder, how much is too much?
As an orthodontist, realtor, and manager of a consulting firm serving orthodontists as clients, I comprehend both perspectives. Here are my humble thoughts:
- Understand the businesses you're engaging with. Marketing agencies often have alarmingly low client retention rates due to excessively high fees, delayed results from online marketing efforts, and ad fatigue. Measuring the ROI for marketing precisely is nearly impossible. Recognize that the decision-making process for choosing an orthodontist is more intricate than selecting a general or pediatric dentist. Patients consider a combination of factors when picking an orthodontic provider.
- The actual expenses involved in running a marketing campaign often tend to be considerably lower than the fees charged by tech companies. These companies, as you might be aware, operate with high profit margins, capitalizing on the fact that doctors may lack either the inclination or the necessary skills to manage their own marketing campaigns effectively.
- Stories circulate where a dentist enlists a marketing team and witnesses an immediate surge in case starts. However, these anecdotes should be taken with caution. Was the agency hired just before a peak season, or during a period of robust consumer spending, like 2020-21? Increased cases might occur organically due to these factors. Understand the distinction between organic growth and an agency's contributions.
- A fundamental rule in marketing is the correlation between ad spending and lead generation. The more you spend the more leads (good or bad quality) you get, It's common sense. Discuss the strategies your agency employs and comprehend the costs per lead or per click. You might be wasting ad budgets on generic ads.
- Calculating the ROI for a consulting firm aiding a startup practice is immensely challenging due to the lack of comparative performance data. While historical data from other startups can serve as a reference, every practice and doctor is unique, making these comparisons merely guidelines.
- Concerning hiring an architect, it's prudent to scrutinize the loan breakdown and spend judiciously. There are numerous areas where the $50,000 could be more effectively allocated. Patients appreciate a nice, modern practice but don't necessarily expect a Taj Mahal.
To summarize, I highly recommend conducting a comprehensive review of your current budget or cash flow and spending accordingly. While it's sensible for a new practice to allocate a substantial portion of funds to marketing or consulting, remember that there's a limit to prudent expenditure.
At WGO, our emphasis is on establishing a robust foundation for your practice by promoting self-independence. I believe new practices have ample downtime wherein the team can develop marketing strategies and overall practice systems, aiming ultimately to perform most services in-house. Our role is to collaborate with and educate you toward complete independence. It's worth noting that we do offer retainer marketing and public relations programs for practices wishing to be hands-off in these areas.
Disclosure: Dr. Kevin Baharvand is the owner orthodontist at WGO consulting.
It is always difficult to start something from scratch. You might be thinking that you have never set any fees in your associate job. How do you price your comprehensive case? How about limited treatments? Wait, what is even truly a limited treatment? Is it a short treatment or a single arch treatment? What if it is single arch but complicated? Oh man! How about my retainers or the whitening kits we give out? And more and more small but consequential questions which can give you a brain freeze.
Back in my corporate dentistry days, I learned a simple rule: "price 3 times the cost." I believe this rule is a good place to start but not accurate. For example, it may cost you less than $30 to make a set of clear retainers, but it is too low to price it at $90. It is often not customary to the current US market.
Now you might say, "I went to school for over 20 years and will set my fees solid in stone because I am a board-certified orthodontist and I do not want to sell myself cheap." Although I totally sympathize with this way of thinking, financial markets are not based on emotions and pride.
Now here is what I personally believe will eventually set our fees in case we are out of network with insurance: Supply and demand at the local level and macro-economics at a larger scale. Let me expand on each here:
Supply and demand at the local market: It does make a huge difference whether you practice in a rural area versus a metroplex. Additionally, it makes a difference if you practice in rural Alabama versus rural New York. The same goes for the metroplex Dallas versus San Antonio. In short, your local demographics make a difference. The fewer the orthodontists around, the higher you can set your fees, and vice versa. But there is an upper limit where you start pricing yourself out of the market. You may do well with a $7,000 comprehensive fee in rural NY but likely not in rural Alabama. Start by learning how much others are charging roughly around you and decide if you can differentiate yourself and charge more or else. I will dive deeper into differentiation in another article.
Macro-economics: This is what you cannot control. You cannot really control how bad the inflation is or how deep the following recession will be. You can, however, control your strategies in regard to the fluctuations of macro-economics. For example, many practices choose to run promotions with lower down payments to bring more clients during slow seasons. During peak summer seasons due to higher overall demand, you can be more firm with your fees. 2023 was not a great year overall in the orthodontic market. Many practices played around with their fees to adjust. Keep in mind that macroeconomics will affect your newbie start-up a lot harder than an established practice with internal referrals and reputation already built.
Another consequential factor is your insurance participation. If you choose to be In-network, your fees are contracted and determined by someone else. You still need to set your UCR (usual, customary and reasonable), but the difference between your UCRs and contracted rates will be passed down to your patients as an in-network discount.
In summary, I recommend for you to understand your market, make decisions about your fees based on the knowledge of the market and not pride. At WGO consulting, we help our clients understand the ins and outs of their UCRs for both the big and small procedure. We negotiate with insurance carriers to structure the most effective fee schedule for your practice.
Disclaimer: Dr. Kevin Baharvand is the founder and owner at WGO consulting.
When setting up an orthodontic start-up, the multitude of moving pieces and crucial decisions to make can be overwhelming. Few choices are as critical as the systems required for new patient onboarding and treatment initiation, as these directly impact the office's revenue stream.
At our orthodontic offices (elateorthodontics.com), we opted for Orthofi right from day one. In this blog, I'd like to share the pros and cons of this decision with you.
What is Orthofi?
Orthofi defines itself as: “A software and service solution designed to increase your starts and simplify your life. Our end-to-end solution streamlines patient onboarding, stimulates more conversions, and takes on the in-house burden of insurance, patient billing & collections, allowing you to focus on what matters most.”
It broadly categorizes its services into three areas:
1. Patient Acquisition: Streamlining patient onboarding and conversion with a user-friendly interface to enhance the same-day conversion rate.
2. Revenue Cycle Management: Involving patient and insurance billing and collection.
3. Data Analytics: Providing a concise summary of the above services.
Why did we choose Orthofi?
Personally, I'm all about systems. I firmly believe that a well-functioning operation should run smoothly regardless of the operator. Orthofi boasts excellent systems that reduce reliance on individual staff members. This is particularly crucial in a start-up environment, where the first hire often has minimal administrative experience. Notably, Orthofi's library and support team are quite effective in initiating the process. This provides a sense of security that onboarding and revenue management are ongoing even during staff absences or transitions. Robust systems reduce dependence on individual talents.
Does Orthofi replace a staff member?
Certainly not, especially not in a start-up. You'll still require personnel for various tasks like office maintenance, adjustments, call handling, and patient onboarding. Additionally, someone on the team needs to ensure Orthofi is functioning correctly. Errors by Orthofi's team aren't uncommon. For instance, in our offices, we cross-verify patient insurances where Orthofi claims there are no benefits, as we've observed numerous errors in this regard.
In short, Orthofi might not reduce your team count, but it will lighten their workload.
How does Orthofi affect the bottom line?
This is the critical question. Will Orthofi accelerate your financial goals? From an income perspective, Orthofi claims to improve onboarding experiences, potentially leading to more same-day starts. Additionally, efficient accounts receivable management could increase your earnings. While there is truth in this, it comes with a caveat.
Same-day starts rely heavily on the overall new patient experience, beginning with your online and community reputation, new patient calls, office experience, fee presentation, and incentives for same-day starts. In other words, more systems are needed to facilitate same-day starts.
Regarding accounts receivable, Orthofi makes calls and texts for payment collections but isn't a collection agency. You'll still need to vigilantly manage your delinquency list, requiring a trained staff member's proactive effort.
Regarding expenses, Orthofi incurs costs for its services. For start-ups, this could mean a fixed monthly expense initially, followed by a percentage of collected amounts from patients and insurance later.
Orthofi's fees encompass software fees, service charges, and transaction/merchant fees. While merchant fees are inevitable, with Orthofi, you can't negotiate rates as they choose your merchant services. The collective fees may vary depending on practice size. For us, it accounts for close to 7% of our revenue. Notably, Orthofi deducts its fees from received payments before transferring funds, leading to cash flow stress for a start-up orthodontic office.
Is Orthofi worth it?
In my view, Orthofi is a well-constructed and consistent product. However, as the practice leader, it's up to you to determine if this product meets your needs and if the fees are justifiable. It's been working for us so far, but we're also developing our own programs to eventually become more independent.
I want to clarify that while we utilize Orthofi in our orthodontic practices, this blog post discussing its pros and cons is not influenced by any incentives or endorsements from Orthofi. Our aim is to provide an unbiased review based on our firsthand experience with the software to assist other practitioners in making informed decisions for their practices.
The design of an orthodontic office is not just about aesthetics; it plays a crucial role in patient comfort, staff efficiency, and overall productivity. In this blog post, we'll explore the key considerations for designing the perfect floor plan for an orthodontic office.
1. Reception Area
The reception area is the first point of contact for patients, and it sets the tone for their experience. It should be welcoming and comfortable. Consider these elements:
- A spacious and well-lit area with comfortable seating for patients and their companions.
- A welcoming front desk with a friendly receptionist to greet patients.
- Educational materials and visuals to inform patients about orthodontic treatments.
- A designated kids' corner with toys and books to keep young patients entertained.
In addition to these elements, it's crucial to size the reception area in a way that matches the anticipated patient volume and the number of treatment chairs in your office. For instance, if you plan to see 80-100 patients a day, ensure the reception area can efficiently accommodate this volume without overcrowding.
2. Treatment Rooms
Treatment rooms are the heart of the orthodontic office. They should be designed for efficiency and patient comfort:
- Open Bay Treatment Rooms: Traditionally, open bay treatment rooms are designed with multiple chairs in one large space. This layout encourages a communal and social atmosphere and can be more cost-effective. However, post-COVID, some patients may prefer a higher level of privacy.
- Open Bay Treatment Rooms with Privacy Walls: In response to changing patient preferences and the need for enhanced privacy in the post-COVID era, many orthodontic offices are adopting open bay treatment rooms with privacy walls. These walls can be either partial or full height and provide a level of separation and privacy for patients. They still allow for a sense of community but offer a compromise between the traditional open bay and fully enclosed treatment rooms. You can look at our privacy walls at Elate Orthodontics by clicking here.
When discussing the floor plan for your orthodontic office, consider the patient experience and their comfort level in the treatment rooms. The choice between open bay and open bay with privacy walls should align with your practice's philosophy and the preferences of your patient demographic.
3. Sterilization Area: Optimizing Instrument Workflow
The sterilization area in your orthodontic office is a critical component of infection control and patient safety. Ensuring an efficient flow of instruments from the point they are used to when they are ready for reuse is vital. Here's how you can optimize this workflow:
Dirty to Clean Instrument Flow:
1. Dirty Instruments In: Begin with a designated area where used instruments are collected.
2. Washing and Cleaning: Once collected, the dirty instruments should be taken to the washing area. Here, they are thoroughly cleaned and prepped for sterilization. Ultrasonic cleaners, and other cleaning equipment should be readily available and properly sequenced.
3. Drying: After cleaning, the instruments should be thoroughly dried to prevent any remaining moisture, which can impact the sterilization process. You should have dedicated drying racks or stations to ensure this step is done correctly.
4. Bagging: Clean, dry instruments should be carefully bagged or packaged in sterilization pouches. These pouches should be clearly labeled with the date of sterilization to ensure proper tracking and adherence to infection control standards.
5. Sterilization: The next step is the actual sterilization of the instruments. This is typically done using autoclaves, our favorite is M-11 Midmark. It's crucial to monitor the autoclave's performance regularly and maintain proper sterilization records.
6. Moving to the Clean Area: Once sterilized, the instruments should be carefully transported to the clean area. This area should be kept separate from the dirty area to prevent cross-contamination. Implement a clear system for organizing and storing sterilized instruments until they are needed.
An efficient instrument workflow in your sterilization area not only ensures patient safety but also allows your orthodontic practice to run smoothly. Patients can be confident in the cleanliness and safety of the instruments used in their treatments, and your staff can work more efficiently with well-organized and optimized processes.
4. Consultation Room: Enhancing the Patient Experience and Flow
A dedicated consultation room in your orthodontic office is a vital space for discussing treatment plans and making crucial decisions with your patients and their families. To optimize the patient experience and maintain a smooth flow of new patient exams, consider the following:
- Proximity to Waiting Area: Locate the consultation room close to the reception area and waiting room. This ensures that patients and their families can easily transition from the initial check-in to the consultation, maintaining a smooth flow of new patient exams.
- Near the X-ray Room: Placing the consultation room in proximity to the X-ray and imaging room is highly advantageous. This strategic placement allows for quick access to X-ray images and facilitates a seamless transition from diagnostic imaging to consultation.
By strategically placing the consultation room, using technology to display X-rays and scans, and creating a comfortable and private space for discussions, you can provide a more comprehensive and patient-centered approach to orthodontic consultations. This not only ensures that patients and their families have a clear understanding of their treatment options but also helps maintain a smooth flow of new patient exams in your orthodontic office.
5. X-ray and Imaging Room: Ensuring Compatibility
Orthodontic treatment often relies on diagnostic imaging to make informed decisions and track progress. To ensure that your X-ray and imaging room is well-equipped and properly designed, consider the following:
- Know Your X-ray Machine: Before planning the X-ray room, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the specific X-ray machine you are purchasing. Different X-ray machines have varying space and power requirements, and their dimensions can significantly impact the room design.
- Room Dimensions: The dimensions of your X-ray machine should align with the dimensions of the X-ray room. Ensure that the room can comfortably accommodate the machine while leaving space for the technician to operate it and for patients to be positioned appropriately.
- Lead-Lined Walls: depending on state regulations, X-ray rooms may have lead-lined walls to protect patients, staff, and the surrounding areas from radiation exposure. Confirm that the lead-lined walls are in line with the safety standards for the X-ray machine you plan to use.
- Power Requirements: Different X-ray machines have varying power requirements. Ensure that the electrical supply in the X-ray room meets the specifications of your chosen machine. This includes voltage, current, and the need for any additional power outlets.
- Technician Workspace: Design the X-ray room to provide ample space for the technician to work comfortably and safely. Adequate space ensures that positioning patients for X-ray scans is efficient and accurate.
6. Staff Area: Balancing Size and Amenities
- Appropriate Size: While it's essential to provide a comfortable space for your staff, avoid making the staff room too large. Most staff members often leave the office during lunchtime to eat, so a moderate-sized staff area is often sufficient.
- Washer and Dryer Hookup: Consider adding a washer and dryer hookup to the staff area. This can be convenient for staff who may need to launder their uniforms or other items during the workday.
- Break room with seating, kitchenette, and storage for personal items.
7. Mechanical room
One key consideration for the mechanical room is its placement. Ideally, it should be located as far back as possible within the office space. Placing the mechanical room away from patient treatment and consultation areas is essential to minimize noise disturbance. The hum of suction and compressor systems and the operation of other mechanical equipment should be virtually imperceptible in the clinical and consultation areas, creating a tranquil atmosphere that enhances the patient experience. Careful planning in the placement of the mechanical room ensures that the critical functions it performs do not interfere with the serenity of your orthodontic practice.
8. Accessibility (ADA compliance)
Ensure that the office is accessible to all patients, including those with mobility challenges. Install ramps and make sure doorways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
9. Aesthetics and Branding
The aesthetics of the office should reflect your practice's brand and create a pleasant atmosphere. Consider elements like color schemes, artwork, and decor that align with your orthodontic office's image.
10. Future Growth
Plan your floor layout with potential growth in mind. If your practice is likely to expand, leave space for additional treatment rooms, staff, and equipment.
Designing the ideal floor plan for an orthodontic office is a thoughtful process that combines functionality, aesthetics, and patient comfort. A well-designed office not only enhances the patient experience but also improves staff efficiency and overall productivity. By carefully considering the elements mentioned above and sizing the reception area to match your patient volume, incorporating open bay treatment rooms with privacy walls, optimizing the workflow in the sterilization area, placing the consultation room strategically, ensuring X-ray machine compatibility, and enhancing the overall patient experience, you can create an orthodontic office that stands out in terms of both form and function, ultimately contributing to the success of your practice. Moreover, don't hesitate to reach out to dental contractors or professional design firms like Joe Architect or Kappler Design for expert guidance and assistance in creating the perfect orthodontic office layout.
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