When I first walked into Laurelhurst Dentistry in Portland, Oregon, I thought, “Great staff and excellent location, but what a sterile, energetically cold environment. I wonder how that’s affecting the business?”
My client, Dr. Adrienne Fischl, DDS, hired me to work on the Feng Shui design of her five-dentist practice. The staff was excellent, the dentists were experts in their field, and they loved their jobs. What was the missing link? They lacked an environment that felt nurturing and supportive. Dr. Fischl wanted the reception area and three large operatories to feel like a hug to their patients.
As I asked questions about the practice, my client shared that many of their patients felt anxious in the space and uncomfortable in the waiting area. The dentists and team members knew something needed to change, and that things just "didn't feel right.” I also learned that a low percentage of the business was referral-based, and my client wanted to improve that, to sustain the practice in a time of post-2008 recession.
Before I continue, I’d like to share some statistics about people in the United States who suffer from anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., with more than 40 million people affected. That’s 18% of the population, and only one third of those affected will seek help.
When you couple that with today’s fast-paced world, it’s no wonder that it’s becoming more important for dentists and other health-care professionals to pay more attention to the energy and psychology of their environments, to support their patients and take care of them in better ways.
Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In my line of work, this has always been true. People not only crave feeling safe and comfortable at home, but they will spend their money at businesses that genuinely care about their experience from the moment they walk through the door. Not only that, but they’ll go home and tell their friends and family about it.
As a dentist, you may not think it’s a big deal to create an environment that feels warm and safe. But a warm and safe environment is important to your patients, and they will say so by being loyal and will look forward to visiting. Now, back to Laurelhurst Dentistry…
The transformation of the waiting area had the “shazam” impact I was waiting for. The practice had an overwhelmingly positive response from patients, who commented on how beautiful and restful the space had become. Others saidd that with the new look and feel, they felt better taken care of. Staff members also shared that they now look forward to coming to work in a different way.
We achieved a feeling of safety and comfort by replacing the floors with a new material and a darker color, and painting the ceiling the same colors as the walls in the waiting area. This made the space feel whole. We also brought in colorful artwork, soft and comfortable furniture, and a rug that defined the area.
Replacing the floors was the most expensive part of the transformation. New paint on the walls and new furniture and accessories were more affordable. The investment was well worth it, and paid off quickly with more patient visits. Within six months of making the changes, referrals became 80% of this successful practice’s business. New patients became long-term patients, and shared their experiences with friends and family.
From my perspective, the space is now a reflection of the energy of the practice. The space provides a complete experience to everyone who walks through the door. That experience translates to good business and great Feng Shui.
Adam Diesburg, DDS
Last year, Dr. Adam Diesburg’s wife Emily Grosvenor contacted me for a Feng Shui design appointment for her and her husband’s fairly new dental practice, Adam Diesburg, DDS, in McMinnville, Oregon. After spending nearly a decade in Oregon, I decided this would be my last client before moving my family to Northern California.
Emily expressed her desire to create a warm and welcoming environment where patients felt relaxed and even a bit pampered. She said the practice was outdated in both design and décor, and that it didn’t feel in alignment with who they were – a new-to-the-area progressive practice that wanted to attract new patients and build a strong foundation for long-term stability in the community.
Emily understood the economic importance of creating a positive and uplifting environment for patients, and included this in the financial growth plan.
(Before photo of waiting area at Adam Diesburg, DDS) (After photo of waiting area at Adam Diesburg, DDS)
“One of the best things we've noticed after implementing the changes Cheryl recommended is that people want to stay in our waiting room for as long as they can,” Emily said. “Respecting our patients' time is very important to us, but it means a lot that often they will stay in the waiting room after their appointments in order to finish an article or just hang out.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she continued. “We have seen more than 100 new patients come in since we remodeled, and some patients who were on the fence about trying someone new have been thrilled to be welcomed in our new space when they visit the practice. We are also getting raves for the inclusion of our bonsai presentation – a rotating collection you see when you step in the door.”
The paint color changes in the operatory were enough to shift this once sterile feeling environment to a cozy space where patients can look up and feel nurtured by the calming ceiling color reminiscent of the night sky, yet there is still plenty of light for the dentist and hygienists to work efficiently. Painting the ceiling in a dental office is the single most powerful change in creating a calming effect for patients sitting in the chair below.
Many business owners, not just dentists, often avoid changing their environments with Feng Shui design principles because they can’t see past the expense. I get it. I’m a business owner too, but in my experience, it’s worth every penny.
If you keep the décor and design of your practice outdated and stale, the space still resonates with the energy of the prior practice, not with your current energy. This creates an imbalance and results in stunted economic growth until you create a space that reflects your vision.
Think of it this way. Your patients’ experience while they are in your office is as important as the new technology you bring into the office. A positive experience for patients goes beyond the care of your expert staff and reducing pain during a procedure, both of which are vital pieces of a successful practice. It’s the whole experience that keeps them coming back for more. It’s the “feeling” of the space you create as soon as they walk through the door see what’s it like to be in your space.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on new furniture and décor. You can simply change the paint colors on the walls, invest in a few key new pieces, and buy some inexpensive artwork that reflects the vision.
You can also get creative like Dr. Diesburg did by bringing in his cherished Bonzai plants. This not only added beauty to the space, but it also created interest in the environment and brought further attention to the practice. There’s an energetic connection between Dr. Diesburg’s love of plants and being able to share that with his patients. That’s good Feng Shui and even better business sense.