Story by Kevin Henry, editor; photos by Jackie Lais, Studio 55 Photos
Sometimes the stars align and things just go the way they’re supposed to go (for further definition, see the entry under “2004 Boston Red Sox”). For Dr. Randy Lais, leaving his established practice and moving to another state was more a matter of personal decisions than professional, but things have worked out better than he could have ever imagined.
Dr. Lais and his wife, Jackie, had moved to Rogers, Ark., to accommodate a job offer for her and an improved lifestyle. With a thriving practice in Joplin, Mo., and his children living there with his ex-wife, Dr. Lais was spending quite a bit of time making a 64-mile commute on Highway 71 to maintain his personal and professional life.
“My social life was in Arkansas, and my professional life was in Joplin. I really didn’t feel like I was fully a member of either community,” Dr. Lais explained. “I think it’s very important to interact with your patients outside of the office, and I wasn’t able to see them in the community I worked in because of the distance and all of the driving I was doing.”
Other than the commute and separation from his children, Dr. Lais was very happy with the practice in Joplin. He was constantly building what he calls, “a practice within a practice,” by changing policies that attracted only certain patients and focusing his business on quality care.
“I’ve always felt that if you run a lot of people through your office every day focusing on the bottom line, you’re really doing a disservice to your patients,” he said. “I believe I earned a reputation as someone who really listened to the patients, and I had quite a few patients come into the practice simply because they knew I would take my time and listen to them and they could expect good results with their dentistry.”
However, when all of his children had moved to northwest Arkansas, Dr. Lais knew it was time to stop commuting for the practice. He began looking for space for a new dental office in one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation. Northwest Arkansas is home to the national headquarters for Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., one of the largest transportation logistics providers in North America. However, just as important to Dr. Lais, it’s also the home of the Interdisciplinary Dentofacial Therapy Study Group.
“Working in this study group and sharing knowledge with the other practitioners in the group is one of the most important things for me professionally,” Dr. Lais said. “As a group, we can get results with dentofacial care as well as anywhere in the nation.”
When it came time for Dr. Lais to find space for his office, he first began down the road of leasing an office. However, when he discovered he could build his own practice building for less monthly costs than the lease rates in Rogers, there was little doubt what he would do. And, again, the stars aligned for him.
“I picked an area to build the practice really based on my convenience. It’s in a Class A development that is about three minutes from the front door of my house to the office,” Dr. Lais said. “During the last couple of years, this development (Pinnacle Point and Pinnacle Hills) has just exploded. Its growth has been amazing and it really has become the address to be at in northwest Arkansas.”
With such establishments as Embassy Suites and thousands of square feet of Class A office space in numerous buildings near the same center during the past two years - and plenty more hotels, a convention center, major shopping and restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Macaroni Grill on the way - Dr. Lais suddenly finds himself in what will be one of the highest-trafficked areas in the state. However, he is firmly committed to taking the same practice philosophies he had in Joplin to an even higher level.
“When you offer comprehensive, high-quality care, people are going to find out about your practice,” he said. “I designed this practice with the patient in mind at all times. The patients need to understand that we are here for them. It’s easy for a dentist to develop the dental skills, but you have to build a relationship with a patient before he or she is going to say yes to any comprehensive care.”
Part of building that relationship includes the kind of staff that works with the patient and Dr. Lais. When the time came to open the new practice, Dr. Lais knew exactly what kind of people he wanted on staff.
“I wanted to hire nice people. You just can’t train people to be nice if they’re really not,” he explained. “I think it’s very important to find people who are willing to learn new things and grow personally and professionally. I want to give my staff members every chance I can to succeed, and I want my staff members to become better people from being here.”
Along with a welcoming staff, Dr. Lais can’t overemphasize the appearance and feel of the office. Dr. Lais wants his office to convey a sense of warmth, calmness and quality.
“I knew when I opened my practice in Rogers that I wanted to attract a certain type of patient, and that person pays attention to details,” Dr. Lais explained. “To attract quality patients, it’s important to have a quality facility. The people who are coming into my office have very nice homes, so I wanted to replicate that feeling of quality in my office. I want them to know, or feel subconsciously, ‘If he pays this much attention to the details in his office, he’ll pay attention to the details in my dental care.’
“I wanted a feeling of warmth and calmness when the patient stepped through my door, and a lot of that comes through in my color scheme and use of natural wood,” he continued. “I’ve been in a lot of offices that overused ‘cold’ materials or didn’t continue the color scheme throughout the office that made it seem disjointed. A subtle, complimentary color scheme is very important.”
Also important to Dr. Lais’ patient-first philosophy is the treatment room configuration.
“My previous office had a dual-rear-entry set-up, which allowed for maximum efficiency, but it also really took away from the chance to set up an immediate personal interaction with the patient,” Dr. Lais admitted. “With dual rear entry, I almost felt like I was sneaking up on patients and entering their personal space from the beginning of the interaction. I didn’t want that here in Rogers, so the treatment rooms were designed for eye-to-eye contact with the patient. When I first step into the room from a 4 o’clock or an 8 o’clock position, I can look into his or her eyes and establish a connection.
“We also designed the treatment rooms to be extra-large with enough room for a comfortable chair to be placed in the corner. This allows the patient to get out of the dental chair and relax in a normal chair during a break in a long procedure.”
Speaking of chairs, those were just some of the pieces of equipment that Dr. Lais researched extensively before purchasing for his new office.
“This is going to be my last office, so I wanted high-quality dental equipment that would last until I was ready to stop practicing,” he said. “I gravitated to A-dec for the chairs because of their history of quality and comfort. I hadn’t used a diode laser prior to opening this practice, and it’s been good for doing procedures like sculpting gum tissue. The laser was probably a luxury item for my practice, but I’m very glad I got it. We also went paperless in the office. I can’t overemphasize the value of shooting good digital radiographs and photographs and showing patients what they need to see in order to make an informed decision about their dental treatment.”
Part of showing patients good photography also means Dr. Lais relies on his top photographer - his wife, Jackie. Her photography studio (Studio 55 - www.studio55photos.com) is located in the same building as the dental office, providing personal and professional satisfaction for Dr. Lais.
“Once we started designing the building and saw how it would fit on the property, it made perfect sense for Jackie to have her studio next door to my office,” Dr. Lais said. “There are many cases that I like to have before-and-after portraits, so having her available next door works extremely well.”
So what advice would Dr. Lais give his fellow dentists who are thinking of building a new office?
“Build the office to fit you and your style of practice. It should reflect who you are and what is important to you. You’ve got to take time to know yourself and interject that into your design, otherwise your office will be someone else’s idea of what a dental office should be. I knew the feeling I wanted, and the way I wanted to provide dentistry. I worked with Unthank Design to make sure my office came across with that feeling.
One of the things that really helped me was to have the contractor paint a 4-foot square piece of sheetrock with the colors we chose for the office. I also got large samples of the carpets, wallcoverings, Corian, granite, woods, and laminates I was considering. By having big samples, you can get a much better idea of how they will look in your office. Don’t settle for small samples, go big.
“Don’t forget that the consultation room is as valuable to a comprehensive practice as the treatment room. Don’t skimp there. The patient needs to develop a good relationship and feel comfortable with his or her decision, and that doesn’t always happen in the dental chair.”
|Compressors, air||Custom (air, oil-less)|
|Digital X-ray||Schick Technologies, Gendex|
|Endodontic handpieces||Dentsply, J. Morita|
|Impression materials||3M ESPE Pentamix with Imprint II|
|Lab equipment||Renfert, KaVo, Ministar, Handler|
|Lasers||ADT Diolase ST|
|Nitrous oxygen units, accessories||Porter|
|Patient education system||CAESY|
|Vacuum units, accessories||Ramvac|