Healthcare Furniture 101: 4 Major Considerations
When furnishing a healthcare facility, knowing where to start your search for the right furniture can be daunting. Not only does furniture need to be commercial quality, but it also needs to go far above and beyond what you would buy for a typical business. Where do you start? These are the top 4 most crucial factors to consider (in order of importance) according to our healthcare furniture experts consider to be the 4 most crucial factors.
Not surprisingly, the first and most important factor you must consider when shopping for healthcare furniture is how safe the product is to use. Think about the types of patients your medical facility treats each day. For the average adult care facility, you’ll want to make sure at least 15% of the seating in your waiting room is bariatric to ensure that all guests feel welcome and comfortable during their stay with you. Depending on the types of patients you see regularly, you may need even more than this. If you’re outfitting an orthopedic or geriatric facility, provide hip chairs for guests who may struggle with getting up from standard guest chairs.
Along with a safe weight capacity, chairs should also feature a safe egress, meaning they should be able to support the weight and motion it takes for an individual to get out of them. A chair with arms should include padded armrests that are comfortable and easy to grip. Plus, they must be able to bear the weight of an adult person pushing down on them to get out of the chair. Similarly, provide armless chairs for larger patients who may not want to use a bariatric chair. Remember, creating a healing atmosphere involves giving your patients the freedom to choose where and how to sit.
Beware of pinch points. Though it can require a lot of research and comparing different pieces of furniture, try to include as few pinch points in your healthcare furniture as possible. Safety hazards can be found in any furniture that has moving parts, from fold-down trays and over-bed tables to adjustable chairs and cabinetry. Although eliminating all pinch points will be near impossible, you can reduce them significantly.
Tip: Incorporate furniture that uses piano hinges rather than cabinet hinges for extra safety, especially in furniture being used around children.
Avoid furniture with welting, also called cording or piping. Welting elements make great catch points for bacteria to grow. Not only can bacteria be spread through contrast stitching and piping, but these upholstery elements can also irritate the skin. Instead, look for seating with waterfall edges to minimize bacteria catch points and provide your guests a greater level of comfort. If your seating has seams, make sure that they are outward facing (facing away from the person sitting in the chair) to minimize the opportunity for bacteria growth.
Due to the nature of healthcare facilities, the cleanability of your furniture could factor into its safety since the only safe furniture in a medical facility is that which is kept impeccably clean and sanitized. Of course, the best way to keep your furniture perfectly clean is by buying furniture that’s easy to clean.
Healthcare seating should always include a clean-out space between the seat and back of the chair—the bigger, the better. Not only does this leave fewer catch points for bacteria growth and bedbug breeding, but it also makes the chairs much easier for staff to clean, ensuring the upholstery is cleaned completely and leaving no room for missed spots. A large clean-out space will prevent potentially harmful or bacteria-filled objects from being deposited between the seat and back of the chair. Remember, your cleaning staff should never have to stick their hands in an area where they can’t see what they might be touching—it’s a health concern and a safety concern for patients and staff alike.
In addition to seating, ensure that all furnishings in your medical facility are made using easy-to-clean materials. Wood and veneer furnishings are porous and not acceptable for a healthcare setting. Instead, select laminate for your reception desks, tables, and cabinetry, which gives off the look of wood but is far more cleanable. Remember that everything in your healthcare facility needs to be cleanable, not just what you can see on the surface. Even the insides of cabinets and drawers must be able to be cleaned completely in order to minimize the spread of harmful bacteria in your facility. Consider using drawer liners that can be easily removed in the event of an unexpected spill.
When it comes to durability, you’ll want to once again consider your facility’s regular population. In most facilities, the space should be equipped with furniture that has a framework with metal-to-metal connections, which are the most durable. When it comes to desks and tables, be sure to get furniture that won’t scratch easily, as scratches on table tops can become a quick breeding ground for germs that can easily spread between patients. All furniture, including seating, should be moisture-resistant and able to withstand regular wear in a busy waiting room or exam room.
Though the aesthetics of a medical facility may not seem important to the untrained eye, we assure you that they matter quite a bit. Just because an environment is sterile does not mean it has to look cold and uninviting. Rather than decking out your hospital or private practice with white-on-white walls and furnishings, incorporate warm, inviting tones in your wall paint, furniture, and décor. A pleasing look will help boost the morale of your guests, helping to calm uneasy nerves and make visits more comfortable for everyone involved. You can achieve this through nature scenes on your walls, laminate furniture in warm wood tones, and seating in earthy colors or fun patterns.