By Danny Chan
Stefan Danylak’s vision of an ideal practice is as straightforward as his theories are for achieving them. He hopes to establish a replicable dental practice model based on the philosophy of “simply better dentistry”. The aim is to provide “the simplest proven dental solution using the latest technology; clear and understandable communication; convenience of location and a commitment to making dental health affordable”.
Now before you write him off as an over-optimistic idealist, despite his credentials, you ought to be informed that he recently converted a 50-year-old practice into a cutting edge clinical haven known as d-health to the delight of both staff and patients alike; and just three months into re-opening the practice at the newly refurbished Camberwell premises, he had to recruit two new staff to cope with a surge in patient numbers.
Stefan Danylak is the only dentist in Australia with a Masters in Business Enterprise and Innovation and one of few clinicians who straddle dentistry, commerce and innovation effortlessly. To reach his vision, Dr. Danylak has spent 25 years in numerous practices and settings, including private and corporate dentistry in Australia and in London. His MBA research focused on the delivery of telemedicine in the 21st Century. Implementation of telecommunications technology to enhance or expedite the delivery of healthcare services, like dentistry, has been slower than previously envisioned and take-up rates at the private practice level have also been dismal.
As Stefan delved deeper into the subject, he began to tinker with the possibilities of integrating new technologies into the realm of private practice, while pushing its boundaries. He explains:
“I was looking for answers as to how a practice can achieve accelerated growth based on tangibles and not something visceral like ‘goodwill’ or ‘patient loyalty’. I wanted to maximise the potential and integration of the latest technologies, and introduce them to patients who have had little or no exposure to them. I wanted to borrow ideas from the experts in market research and apply those methods that evidently worked.”
The opportunity to turn this vision into a reality came, unexpectedly, in the form of a 50-year-old practice that became available on the market. Without high volume traffic, upmarket demographics or even a hint of modernity, the mid-sized, upstairs clinic located in one of Melbourne’s more established suburbs was not exactly what you would call a dream location – yet Stefan saw all the makings of one, and took up the challenge.
“It’s like a home makeover. You should always look for a good basic structure and the rest would just flow along. I saw that these rooms had enough space in the right sized proportion – too often the clinical rooms offer no capacity for change or lack the required infrastructure for re-designing of systems delivery or integration of new technologies.”
The natural light and view to a city streetscape was a bonus and considered important aspects necessary to create the relaxing ambience that Dr. Danylak had in mind. It was in a central location within an established business and commercial precinct with well-established public transport and parking. These qualities met his criteria in ensuring there was capacity for growth and the potential to attract highly trained personnel.
Renovation was planned throughout March and commenced in early April. A building crew of around ten tradespeople rebuilt the two-chair facility that had largely remained the same for 40 years. Assuming project management responsibilities, Stefan managed to keep the costs relatively low at $200,000 – further acquisitions are planned before year-end, estimated to cost another $50,000.
“Project managing the renovation yourself is challenging but the rewards are that you learn a lot about the infrastructure of your facility and the installation process behind the new equipment and devices.
“Stuff like locating access outlets for plumbing or having enough room to retrofit a range of new technologies is important knowledge that you pick up along the way,” he adds.
The “technologies” range from the basics such as full practice computerisation via Exact Practice Management System, digital x rays, intraoral cameras, rotary file systems to a Waterlase laser and the Morita Spaceline.
Stefan believes the next technological wave in dentistry will be microscope-assisted laser treatment, citing the main reason to be its minimally invasive feature that allows for routine applications He is also convinced that advanced technology dovetailed with functional ergonomics tend to produce the best results, as evidenced by the Morita unit. He enthuses:
“The Morita Spaceline chair is totally in a league of its own. It lets you sit and operate without the need to stretch or turn, too much of which can risk exerting your back. In fact, I’m looking forward, hopefully before the end of this year, to combine the unit with a microscope – which together promises to be the best ergonomic process and position for any dentist.
“The unit offers an amazing experience in improving the way in which dentists and assistants work and interact. The attention to engineering detail is evident the moment you recline the chair and it is whisper quiet – not even the slightest squeak. Even something as simple as mounting the monitor on the dentist bracket table attests to its superior ergonomics.”
Exciting as it has been adopting a raft of new technologies, Stefan has found it challenging at times.
“Introducing seven different technologies at once has proved extremely trying – perhaps incremental changes over time would have been easier but circumstances demanded a complete changeover.”
Perhaps the most obvious “changeover” is in the physical transformation of the clinic. Walking into the reception area, nobody would have guessed that behind all the modern furnishings was once a dental practice from a bygone era
The free-flowing design of the reception area creates a welcoming atmosphere, exuding minimalist elegance that extends unobtrusively into the connecting waiting area, where plush lounge chairs, soft down lights and essential oils accentuate the warm ambience. Evidently, Dr. Danylak takes pride in making patients right at home during their visits.
“I wanted to remove the aspects that make a patient feel closed in or trapped, and replace these objects or furniture with things that are soothing to the senses, thus helping them to relax and reduce anxiety.”
At the renovation’s end, Dr. Stefan Danylak says the job is only half done. Like any MBA-toting dentist worth his salt, Danylak would have you know that “patient loyalty is no longer a guarantee.”
“Any slip in the communication process from initial telephone contact and response to paying the final bill efficiently through hicaps can be perceived as indifference to the patients and their needs. Trust and loyalty can be destroyed overnight. It is not enough being either the most brilliant or the cheapest clinician anymore.”
Dr. Danylak clearly understands that for all the new fangled technologies in his arsenal, it can sometimes boil down to a sincere smile or a simple “thank you” to keep patients coming back. Still, the exacting dentist seems determined to establish a cause-and-effect for every customer service scenario. He says:
“My biggest challenge will be to find the time to examine each patient’s dental and social records in order to assess their dental history and determine specific norms and behaviours upon which to base future change policies.”