Clinias from Breda has been present on the Dutch market since 2006 and has managed to establish a strong and reputable position. Though it wasn't till the end of 2013 when their original advertising campaign made it recognized in the whole city of Breda. The campaign also marked an opening in the brand new location. We were sure that this was not the only innovation that we could expect from Clinias and therefore we met with its owners Rene van den Houdt and Willemijn van den Houdt – van der Linden to talk about their approach to clinic design and marketing. Willemijn is the head dentist and leads the dental team of Clinias. Her husband Rene manages the clinic, its communication and he also planned and designed the interiors.
DESIGNED FOR OPERATIONS EXCELLENCE
Our clinic is divided into two parts, says Rene. A hallway with the counter facilitates the flow of patients to the treatment rooms and the second hallway facilitates the workflow of the dental team. Those two worlds meet in the middle, which for me is the patient’s mouth. They should never cross each other. Of course with such a design concept, there are some challenges e.g. our floor is a long tube, almost 50 meters long and only 7 meters wide. This is pretty narrow for having a waiting room, five dental offices and logistics behind it. I wanted to plan our clinic so that people inside could experience more space that is actually delivered.
The width of the waiting room is not even 2 meters, but it appears much wider. It is because your eye is taken away by a light line and the ceiling is cut off half way and it disappears into other spaces. The glass on the ceiling changes throughout the day and makes the space more vibrant. When you enter the clinic as a patient you experience a warm welcoming atmosphere. Once you enter a treatment room you transfer into a bit more rigorous and hygienic clinical space, which confirms you that you are in a top professional environment.
The clinical part was also challenging. The hallway is less than a meter wide. If everything was built from bricks it would be a horrible place to be. Therefore we made the walls out of glass and we used them as a support for cabinets. The cabinets float above the floor and they can be accessed from both sides. In this way I gained some space to add to the hallway and I took some space from the treatment room without any effect to the usable area.
When designing the cabinets we asked ourselves What if dental cabinets did not exist? What is the consequence of having a cabinet? – not only in regards to space but also logistics. We have 5 treatment rooms in this clinic and 7 in the second one. This gives 12 solutions or 12 problems. Should we multiply a problem or multiply a solution? We started from scratch as to why we need a cabinet. We did not want to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes it is good to evaluate if the wheel should still be in place. The whole process led us to work-tubs which resulted in a very efficient flow of materials and well managed stock.
A work-tub is a tray containing all materials and tools that are needed for a treatment. Each treatment is represented by a different color. If you report to a clinic and you say that you need a cavity treatment you are classified as Mr. Blue. Everyone knows that everything that is blue should be placed in the treatment room. All the materials that a dentist needs to help Mr. Blue are available there. In a traditionally organized clinic you need materials for all treatments multiplied by the amount of rooms. By having that many sets in stock the chance of not finding something or materials becoming expired increases. Stock management is time consuming and if something is missing in a cabinet, your staff is trying to find it in another room and that means that they move the problem from one place to another.
We have five treatment rooms, but we do not need five complete sets to treat blue patients at the same time. A work-tub is in the treatment room only during a treatment. After the treatment it is moved to disinfection area. Work-tubs are cleaned and disinfected in the red area and then they get sterile and their content is completed on the clean (green) side of the room. There is only one central stock which consists of only few drawers. This also reduces the pollution of materials that are not used too often.
A lot of dentists think that the noise is their enemy. I was wondering how disturbing a noise may be and how helpful may it become. I deliberately opened the back side of the clinic which brought an audio atmosphere that you may compare to entering to a museum or a church – there is a noise but it is not disturbing. We use this noise as an instrument to experience the space in another way. When you sit in our meeting room you can hear other people and you know that you are not alone. This creates a relaxed atmosphere and gives you an emotional comfort. Of course it is not nice when someone is screaming, but I think that those are exceptions and accepting those exceptions deliver you mostly a very nice environment.
Some of my colleagues were kind of shocked after seeing Clinias’s advertising campaign, says Willemijn. The gentlemen agreement was that you could only have two kinds of advertisements as a dentist when you open a practice or when you are looking for a personnel. In our advertising we did not want to say that we are the best dental clinic, but we wanted to make us recognizable. Therefore we broke with the old tradition and we did a billboard campaign in the whole Breda. Since this area was new to us, we also distributed leaflets around this district. I do not think that it was an aggressive campaign, but it definitely influenced the industry.
In advertisements you can tell whatever you want or what you like, but at the end it is the consumer that determines if the message that you send is true. The first thing that you should ask yourself is what kind of clinic do you want to be? We envision our patients as “people who understand what we are doing, they recognize the quality, they care for themselves and they consider a good dentistry worthfull” and this makes a serious target group for us. We deliver something and expect something, but there should be a good transition between the two sides. The real marketing starts inside the clinic. If you build a practice that really fits to the things you promise, people will see that it is true. Your clinic and your work enhance your story.
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