A Camel Is A Horse Designed By A Committee

I’ve got a bone to pick about treatment room design or layout.

A big bone.

There’s a treatment room design out there that is absolutely killing, or destroying, all our efforts of customer service.

And I’ve discovered this revelation quite by accident.

Let me explain.

At Active Dental, I’ve always had treatment rooms designed fairly simply.

The dental chair is in the middle of the room, and the dental assistant works on one side of the chair and the dentist works on the other side of the chair. On the assistant’s side is her trolley and sink. On the dentist’s side is his computer terminal.

And behind the chair is not much at all.

Now here’s the kicker….

At the start of this year, my corporate owners decided to revamp one of my treatment rooms.

A team of experts, or so-called experts, came in and did a treatment room makeover, and you guessed it, in so doing, they’ve now put everything on the wall of the treatment room directly *behind* the dental chair.

Sink, x-ray, cupboards, computers.

All behind.

Now, sad to say, I’ve never really noticed how functionless this sort of design is.

And seeing these people were the “chosen ones”, I only had to believe that there was going to be a morsel of substance to their enlightening design decision.

And interestingly, I have to admit, I’ve done some work in an office where every treatment room was laid out this way….and I’d never really noticed what a conversation killer this layout truly is.

And I’m happy to take advisement on this, but like I’ve said, I’ve only really just realised how incredibly stupid and brain dead this room design really is when it comes to the all important differentiator of dental offices….

The differentiator of providing World Class Customer Service.

You see, just recently, my new hygienist has commandeered this new room, just for the time being.


And I’ve let him, because it does have a fancy new chair in that room.

But to me, what I’ve found, is that the room is killing customer service.

You see, every time I walk by that room and look in, I see only one of either two things happening.

I see the patient receiving treatment, or I see the patient not in treatment.

And when the patient is receiving treatment the room could be of any design, because the hygienist and the patient are engaged.

But when the patient is not receiving treatment, well in this room, all I see when I walk by, is a massive disconnect happening.

Firstly, the patient is sitting up and looking forward in the room.

At absolutely nothing!!

And the hygienist is behind the patient, right behind the patient, working on the computer, and they’re looking in totally opposite directions.

Now call me silly, but if the computer were beside the patient, this disconnect in communication would never be happening.

So here’s where I need someone to tell me the advantage of having a treatment room laid out in such a manner.

Because the way that I see it, the way this new treatment room is, it’s sending a really strong message to the patient that “you just sit over there and I’m going behind your back and doing something over here”.

“And when I’ve finished doing what I need to do behind your back, I’ll come and get you!”

And every time I see this, when I walk by, it rips my heart out to observe my valued patients sitting looking into space while the hygienist is working on the computer in a part of the room that *disconnects* the patient from the hygienist.

The way I see it, treatment rooms need to be laid out and arranged to foster communication and connection between the practitioners, and the patients at every opportunity, and that means having the practitioners in front of and beside the patients for as long as is possible, to build that trust and rapport.

Hiding the practitioners behind the patient’s back does not in any way at all build rapport.

In fact it destroys it.

I believe that for every minute you are behind the patient you are undoing five minutes of rapport built while being in front of them.

Fortunately for me, the experts that did this makeover have been moved on, ad I’ve been given permission to redesign this room back to a more functional lay out.

And for that I’m truly grateful.

Because not a day goes by that I don’t want to take an axe to this moronic design.


You’ve heard the phrase:

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee”

Well, maybe if you like to hide away from your patients and kill rapport, then a treatment room with all amenities on the wall behind the patient is the one for you.

But for me, that sort of treatment room is the dental camel.

It’s not been designed with one skerrick of a thought of relation building with the patient.

At the end of the appointment, it doesn’t matter how good your margins are, or how good your SOPs are, the one thing the patient’s going to remember is how well they were looked after and how special they were made to feel.

And sitting in a room looking out into space while people shuffled around right behind them?

To me, that’s not a warm fuzzy….

Think I’m over reacting?

Put ten people a day in this situation of twiddling their thumbs and looking forward into space while someone’s doing “something” behind their back, and tell me not one in ten is thinking, there’s got to be a better way of doing this?

How about three in ten?

Or five in ten?

Or more?

Why put any of our valued patients in this position if we don’t need to?

Why not be building rapport and connection one hundred percent of the time?

Patients spell connection T.I.M.E.

When you’re with your patients, be *with* your patients.

Get in front of your patients. Not behind them.

And if you’ve got treatment rooms that are designed by a committee, I hope that like me, you can look forward to the day in the near future that you can take an axe to them.

The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me at david@theupe.com

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