Just for a moment, imagine you’re about to open a new dental practice in a prime High Street location. How would you dress the (large) window area in order to attract maximum attention?
Your answer may be somewhat different from that of Omar Qureshi and Shan Lam when they opened their Swiss Cottage Smile Studio in November 2007. They agreed to fill the window with a dramatic piece of modern artwork.
“We were taking a slight risk” acknowledges Omar, “but not one that, were it to fail, we could not rectify. The important thing is that it didn’t fail. It made people look in the window and into the practice. They liked what they saw”.
From tight to light
Omar and Shan bought their new premises in 2005, but continued to work in their existing practice on the other side of the Finchley Road (above a Chinese restaurant) until November 2007 when the Smile Studio was completed.
They had purchased their original Finchley Road practice in 2000 and built it from two dentists to four. They also built a loyal base of private patients, but with a bias towards an elderly profile. “We wanted to attract younger patients” says Omar, “but the practice was small, cramped and lacking in visual appeal”.
When offices in Harben Parade (directly opposite) became available they made an application. As did 45 others, including 3 dentists. Apart from a real desire to move, they didn’t want direct competition right opposite so they made a determined bid which was accepted.
Essentially they were starting with a blank canvas. Both partners had a very clear idea of what they wanted to create in relation to design and layout but another factor dominated their thinking.
Enjoyment is the key
“I walk in here every morning and I love it” says Omar.
Perhaps more importantly so do the patients, for this is a practice that goes out of its way to make a trip to the dentist an enjoyable experience. “We are in a competitive environment” feels Shan “and we need to attract business and give our patients dental care that they will recommend to their friends and colleagues. We are about to augment our efforts by launching a marketing campaign, but word of mouth will always be our most potent advertisement”.
Omar admits that his frequent visits to the States (he loves New York and LA) have influenced his view and attitudes towards the way dentistry is presented to the consumer. He believes that dental practices that overtly demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment encourage a dialogue of trust with the patient. Effectively it is saying that the practice itself is enjoying what it is doing and is prepared to invest in it. In turn the patient invests in the practice. It’s a win-win situation.
Creating the Smile Studio
The Smile Studio is on two floors, with two clinician surgeries on the ground floor and two hygienist surgeries downstairs. Even downstairs the surgeries are full of natural daylight and the blue glass surgery doors give a sense of calm and peace.
Overall the premises are not overly large but excellent use has been made of space, including a consultancy room where financial matters can be dealt with in privacy. “For some patients providing such a facility is important” says Shan “for others less so. What we are trying to do is offer choice wherever possible”.
This choice extends to every aspect of patient care and patient visits. At one end of the ‘choice’scale the patient can select his or her preference of music or television channel (or complete quiet if preferred) during treatment. At the other end of the scale is the option to discuss his or her overall oral condition in an understandable manner with the clinician.
This facility has been enhanced by the recent purchase of the Pax Uni-3D digital imaging system from Vatech & E-WOO. The system is upgradeable and offers options of panoramic, panoramic and cephalometric, panoramic and CBCT or all three. Smile Studio has chosen the panoramic only at this stage but will probably upgrade to CBCT as the level of implant work increases.
“The system grows with the practice and its needs” is Omar’s view, “Currently, apart from enhancing our diagnostic capability; it strengthens the relationship and trust between patient and dentist”. Offered a “Panoramic View” of their mouth (at £45.00) the majority of patients take full advantage of the opportunity to discuss and understand their oral condition. In turn this leads to patients “buying into” the need for (and the correct protocol for) oral care and hygiene between visits.
Treatments at the Smile Studio
Just as the artwork in the window will change, Omar and Shan see their practice evolving and growing. Currently they have an increasing private patient base and since the move have “evened out” the demographic profile by attracting younger patients.
General dentistry is, of course, the mainstay of their practice but they are seeing a consistent growth in the demand for implants. “I think we will very soon be upgrading our Pax Uni-3D to include 3D imagery” says Omar “but cosmetic dentistry (such as veneers) may take a hit in this economic downturn”.
As with many practices that are placing implants with increasing frequency, assessment and monitoring of a patient’s periodontal condition are recognised as critically important. As explained, utilising a clear Panoramic image will greatly assist in discussions with a patient and the Smile Studio has also invested in state-of-the-art perio mapping equipment.
Smile. It’s worth it
What is clear from a visit to the Smile Studio is that everyone in the practice enjoys what they do. This is demonstrably infectious because patients are happy and relaxed. And, as we all know, people are happy to pay for good service.
“I expect to go the extra mile” believes Omar “We will open on Saturday and Sunday when patients request it. In the same way, I expect my suppliers to demonstrate the same degree of enthusiasm and commitment. When we moved we had some problems with BT and the glass suppliers, but companies such as Vatech & E-Woo have been nothing but supportive and have significantly contributed to the growth of our practice”.