The value of an effective physical environment


  Posted by: Dental Design      24th October 2023

There are many factors that can influence a person’s perception of a business, including the physical environment. Everything from the décor to the layout, the ambience and the facilities available can impact customer satisfaction. This is applicable in many different industries, with studies showing that ambience affects customer satisfaction in restaurants[1] and retail environments.[2]

Of course, such considerations are important in healthcare sectors as well, including within dental practices. Not only does the provision of dental check-ups and possible treatment add an extra layer of potential anxiety for those visiting the premises, but it also makes areas such as the look, feel and cleanliness of the premises even more important.

Adding to the patient experience

There are several reasons why the physical environment is so crucial for a positive patient experience. First impressions can mean a lot and the appearance of the premises can contribute significantly to an individual’s perception of the practice and the care it provides. In fact, the facilities and physical surroundings have been directly linked to how patients perceive the quality of care provided.[3]

A US study found that among the most common reasons cited for patient dissatisfaction in a medical setting were problems with the environment and amenities.[4] Other research[5] has also shown that a good ambience and the service delivery in healthcare settings are both associated with higher patient satisfaction and trust. Cleanliness and interior décor also influenced patient perceptions, making these four factors key considerations with regards to the physical design of any medical environment.

In an emergency healthcare setting, it has been found that patients care most about overcrowding and privacy with regards to the physical environment.[6] So, this may also be relevant to dental practices who offer emergency care.

It’s not just patients

While the environment is integral to the patient experience, it can also have a significant impact on staff. The ongoing recruitment difficulties being faced across dentistry right now mean it is important for practices to do whatever they can to retain talented professionals.[7] Though there are several factors to be considered here, creating an environment that not only promotes efficiency and productivity, but is also pleasant to work in, is essential.

One study[8] found that staff value areas like nature and outdoors, comfort and control even more than patients do. Another paper[9] linked a positive working environment to higher retention among nurses – which also proved universal in facilities around the world. This makes sense given the extensive amount of time that professionals spend at work. 

Application in the dental practice

In order to optimise the patient and professional experience in the dental practice, there are several aspects of the physical environment to consider. For patients, think about their journey through the premises, from walking in the front door to visiting reception, sitting in the waiting room, entering the surgery and then their journey back out again. What do they see first when they open each door? Are the chairs in the waiting area comfortable? Are there steps or tight corners that might make getting around difficult for some people? Are the corridors well-lit?

Is the décor inviting all the way through? Does it promote the right ambience? Colour theory[10] is often utilised during the design process in any business in order to create the right atmosphere. For instance, red is associated with passion and energy, but also danger and urgency. Lighter shades of blue are linked with peace, gentleness and calm, which may be better associations for the dental environment! Colours, as well as the signage, artwork, furniture and lighting can also be used to create and strengthen business branding.

Even the smallest details can make a difference to what patients think of the practice. For instance, a very clean, pleasant smelling and well-designed washroom can really elevate a patient’s perception of the entire business. The Signature range from Initial Medical offers various washroom products from soap and hand sanitiser dispensers to air fresheners, toilet seat cleaner, paper towel and toilet paper dispensers. This portfolio is an excellent way of elevating your washroom aesthetic, reflecting your brand and showing patients that you go above and beyond to enhance their experience at every point.

All of these areas will also improve the environment for staff. They too want a space that promotes calm and serenity, that feels open and remains functional. They will also appreciate facilities that help them perform their job effectively and efficiently.

The best environment for quality dental care

As discussed, there are many ways in which the physical environment of the dental practice contributes to its success. A careful design influences patient perceptions of the business and the quality of services on offer, increasing comfort levels for them and staff. To give your practice the best chance for success now and in the future, everything from the décor to the lighting and the washrooms should be functional and aesthetic. Don’t let your business down by forgetting about the small details!

To find out more, get in touch at 0808 304 7411 or visit the website today

Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  

[1] Horng, J. S., Chou, S. F., Liu, C. H., and Tsai, C. Y. (2013). Creativity, aesthetics and eco-friendliness: A physical dining environment design synthetic assessment model of innovative restaurants. Tour. Manag. 36, 15–25. doi: 10.1016/j.tourman.2012.11.002


[2] Gorji M. The Influence of Customer Satisfaction on the Study of the Relation between the Physical Environment of Store and Customer Tendencies. Intl. Res. J. Manag. Sci. 2014; 2(12); 404-408.


[3] Obadan-Udoh, E, Ramoni, R, Van Der Berg-Cloete, S, White, G, & Kalenderian, E. (2019). Perceptions of quality and safety among dental patients. South African Dental Journal 74(7), 374-382.


[4] Weingart SN, Pagovich O, Sands DZ, Li JM, Aronson MD, Davis RB, et al. Patient-reported service quality on a medicine unit. International Journal for Quality in Health Care 2006; 18(2): 95-101. 


[5] Yun A, Khalilur RM, Shah N, Abu Issa G, Atikur R, Al MA, Xia C. Determinants of patients’ satisfaction and trust toward healthcare service environment in general practice clinics. Frontiers in Psychology. 2022; 13. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.856750 ISSN=1664-1078  


[6] Rowe A, Knox M. The Impact of the Healthcare Environment on Patient Experience in the Emergency Department: A Systematic Review to Understand the Implications for Patient-Centered Design. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal. 2023;16(2):310-329. doi:10.1177/19375867221137097


[7] Evans D, Mills I, Burns L, Bryce M, Hanks S. The dental workforce recruitment and retention crisis in the UK. British Dental Journal. 234, 573–577 (2023).

[8] Sarapultseva M, Zolotareva A, Nasretdinova N, Sarapultsev A. The Healing Environment of Dental Clinics through the Eyes of Patients and Healthcare Professionals: A Pilot Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 19;19(20):13516. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013516. PMID: 36294114; PMCID: PMC9603286.


[9] de Vries N, Boone A, Godderis L, Bouman J, Szemik S, Matranga D, de Winter P. The Race to Retain Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review on Factors that Impact Retention of Nurses and Physicians in Hospitals. Inquiry. 2023 Jan-Dec;60:469580231159318. doi: 10.1177/00469580231159318. PMID: 36912131; PMCID: PMC10014988.


[10] Basic color theory. Color Matters. [Accessed August 2023]

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