Mobile Dental Systems Vehicle Design
a. What are some basic design considerations?

If you can find a good plan for a vehicle that has already been engineered or built that adheres to the basic principles and meets your needs, use it. This may save design and engineering costs.

Program operation can be compromised by designing a vehicle that doesn't adhere to the principles of dental office design and efficient delivery of care. There are a number of vehicles on the road designed by manufacturers who have little knowledge of delivery of dental services. It's critical that the design of the treatment area take into consideration patient flow, staff flow, ease of movement from one treatment area to another, and infection control guidelines. For example, a fundamental principle in office design is that all equipment and instruments in each treatment area should be in the same orientation for staff, not as mirror images. This allows smooth flow and standardized location of supplies. Locate equipment for the use of any provider (dentists or assistants may be right or left-handed) rather than to the specifications of an individual.

Ergonomics is important. How will the placement and selection of equipment affect the musculoskeletal structures and comfort of staff? Dental professionals, by occupation, perform repetitive motions resulting in prolonged exertion of the hands, as well as awkward positioning. Placement/positioning of equipment to enhance maneuverability and posture of staff to avoid twisting and reaching is critical. Consider the average-size person who will be doing a specific task. Place cabinets and frequently-used equipment within easy reach. Counter space and drawer space need to be used in the most efficient and effective way. There should be enough drawer space behind the dental assistant to easily reach items while remaining seated. Don't box the assistant into a corner, isolate her from supplies, or obstruct her view of the patient's oral cavity. View some resources on ergonomics on the OSAP Web site.

Think about staff and patient safety. In a small space, where is the appropriate place for the x-ray control? Where is the best spot for the reception area? If the clinic unit is to be accessible to persons with physical limitations, the placement of waste receptacles and equipment must not impede maneuvering a wheelchair or walker. Create a clear walk space from the lab to the operatories. Don't forget to include emergency medical equipment as well as fire alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm. Where will the fire extinguisher, oxygen and other safety equipment be stored? Don't forget to plan for an eyewash station.

Placement of lighting and patient comfort also are considerations. Think of the psychological impact the design of the unit has upon staff and patients. Where should windows be located?

Scaled drawings and models are extremely useful to visualize the workability of the vehicle design. Laying the design out with chalk in a parking lot, placing operator and assistant chairs in appropriate location and role-playing provision of care can be useful.