Selecting the best furniture for medical spaces
Some things to consider for your healthcare office
Picking furniture for your office space can be a daunting task. From finding the right style to selecting the best color coordination, it’s not always easy. For medical professionals, picking the best office furniture can prove even more challenging.
Not only does the office style need to be aesthetically pleasing, but requirements such as cleanliness, function, and patient accommodations need to be thought through. In most offices, especially a medical office, a waiting room can say a great deal about your company, culture, and business. Here are some tips for selecting the best furniture for your medical office environment from the waiting room to the exam room.
Aesthetics and Comfort
The aesthetics of an office are truly important to the overall patient experience. From the layout of furniture and the lighting to the colors used in the décor, every piece matters. It is essential that you create a welcoming environment for all of your patients that will soothe and reassure them. The furniture selected should reflect and promote how you wish for your guests to feel.
Consider the following when decorating and furnishing your medical office:
• Inspire– When it comes to marketing your business digitally or in print, you’ll want to showcase your office space. Make it bright, professional, and comfortable in appearance so people will want to visit.
• Evaluate– Consider your floorplan and the layout of your furnishings. Is there enough space to move comfortably? Does it meet requirements for ADA access? Does the layout allow you to interact with patients as seamlessly as possible?
• Payments and Data– Does your office allow for enough space for you to gather patient information and payments with privacy?
• Exam Space– Do your offices provide enough space and a layout that is comfortable for the doctor(s), nurses, and patients to move in?
• Storage– Is there lockable storage available for clinical records, marketing material, and medications where patients, service personnel such as vendors, and other guests do not have access?
• Staff– Is there designated space for staff members to take breaks and eat lunch that is not open to the public?
• Privacy– Are your exam rooms private enough for you to hold exams and for patients to disrobe, apply medications, etc.?
Germs are everywhere and members of the healthcare industry must be especially cognizant of choosing the right furnishings to help eliminate the threat of germs to their clients. Whether you are operating a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a dermatology practice, you want to eliminate all of the germs you possibly can and there is furniture to help you accomplish this goal.
The spread of germs is a very real threat. According to the Center for Health Design, germs can lead to unnecessary infections and further healthcare issues. A whitepaper published by the Center for Health Design explained that Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI), an infection that “patients acquire during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a hospital care setting,” are contracted by one in every 20 patients.
Some of these HAI pathogens can live on inanimate surfaces anywhere from hours (Pseudomonas Aeruginosa) to months (Clostridium Difficile). In order to reduce the risk of spreading HAIs, furniture must be cleaned routinely by staff. In order to make this frequent procedure more efficient, easy-to-clean furniture is imperative. The following are some tips when selecting furniture for your practice that accomplishes this goal:
• Seams, stitching, and crevices can harbor harmful bacteria and increase the risk of HAIs. Select furniture with minimal crevices and with areas that are easy to disinfect.
• Pick smooth, finished countertops, desks, and side tables that are easy to wipe down. According to HMF Magazine, non-porous furniture made of material such as vinyl or polyurethane is commonly used in medical settings because of their inherent clean-ability.
• The study by the Center for Health Design shows that the theory that anti-microbial material helps reduce pathogens on furniture has inadequate evidence to support it. Upholstery should be manufactured with impervious materials that are easy to wipe down and maintain.
• Office furniture should last and not be damaged easily. The furniture selected should be easy to maintain and repair. Also fabrics that tear or rip can harbor bacteria.
• Couches and chairs with removable cushions or parts make for convenient disinfecting, easy repairs, and quick replacement are highly recommended.
The Reception Area & Waiting Room
The first thing a patient sees when they walk into an office is generally the reception area and/or waiting room. The style of a waiting room can say much about a company’s values and can generate a certain feeling in patients.
Your reception area should have a clearly visible desk where patients know to check in for appointments. It should be easy to reach sign-in sheets and staff should be visible over the desk. You’ll want to ensure your reception staff has comfortable, ergonomically correct seating for their comfort through their long hours at work. Balanced, comfortable seating should also be offered at the reception desk for patients and guests if they are expected to sit while signing in or filling out paperwork.
Consider who your patients are when decorating and selecting furniture. For example, if you are a pediatrician’s office serving children, you’ll want to include bright colors and a play area with suitable decorations, toys, and books to keep them occupied while they wait. Toys will need to be made of materials that are easy to clean and books should have covers that can be wiped down to help prevent the spread of germs.
Magazines and books are also great items to have in the office on an end table or coffee table for patients to enjoy. Even a basket can serve as a good place to store reading material. Some offices even offer mini refrigerators with bottled water or soda for patients to enjoy while they wait. These should also be cleaned regularly to reduce the spread of germs.
There should be enough seating to accommodate all of your guests. In addition, you want to make sure there is a wide variety of seating from chairs to couches that allow guests to sit where they are most comfortable.
One of the common aspects of a waiting area is the television. This can serve to keep patients entertained and pass the time while they wait as well as offer sound cover for private conversations at the reception desk. Televisions kept on a loop can become annoying, however, so experts recommend the use of smart TVs that can easily stream content from a variety of sources such as cable, Netflix, and the internet. Just make sure the content is appropriate for your audience. For example, Disney movies at a pediatrician’s office are good entertainment for the kids but wouldn’t necessarily be a good fit in a geriatric office.
According to projections released in the latest U.S. Census, the American population is expected to continue to become older and more racially and ethnically diverse. The population of those age 65 and older is expected to more than double by the year 2060 to 92 million as people are living longer with improved healthcare. In addition, the obesity rate among U.S. adults also continues to climb. A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found more than one-third of Americans are now obese.
With such statistics in mind, medical offices will needs to ensure waiting rooms are large enough to accommodate patients who suffer with bariatric issues or those in wheelchairs. According to a whitepaper by Midmark titled Five Key Factors to an Effective Exam Room Design, a patient’s “level of comfort can directly influence their anxiety level and ease ‘white coat syndrome.’” Additionally, there should be enough space for doctors to work adequately as the “inability to easily maneuver in the exam room can often cause physicians to alter their work style over time, which can result in repetitive motion injuries.”
With the population of elderly patients increasing, a growing number of patients may need help getting onto the exam table. Tables should be accessible in that they are able to be lowered to a height of 17 to 19 inches to lower the risk of falls or the burden to staff of lifting patients.
The acquisition of vital signs should also occur in the exam room, according to the Midmark study which concluded that this improves most patient/caregiver interactions. The process of taking vitals hasn’t changed significantly in the last 30 years and many offices are set up to take vitals at several stations which can be uncomfortable for patients, especially if they are in semi-private or public settings.
With rising costs and shrinking office sizes, medical providers and practices can still offer terrific customer service and patient care with foldable workspaces for doctors and nurses. There is no longer a need for a large desk and heavy computer in the exam room. Today’s offices are able to seamlessly work from tablets and laptops with a small desk that can easily be folded against the wall to make more space.
You’ll also want to ensure that you accommodate for patients with special needs such as those with bariatric issues, the elderly, and those in wheelchairs. Ensure there is adequate space between the furniture to meet ADA regulations and that your office allows for ease of movement for every patient. Make sure the width of office doors, both exterior and interior, are able to accommodate wheelchairs so patients can move independently and safely. This is also true of restroom spaces.
Selecting Safe Furnishings
The number one priority for a medical practice should always be patient safety. This should take precedence over style when selecting furniture though the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
For example, falls are the number one form of patient incidents that resulted in death or injury in a hospital setting, according to the Center for Health Design. About 15 percent of those falls are caused by factors in the patient’s environment such as furniture. Below are some facts to recognize when picking safe furniture:
• According to a study by Weiner and Colleagues, when chair height was raised from 17 inches to 22 inches, successful standing efforts rose to nearly 50 percent in nursing home subjects. Select seating with different heights to decrease the fall risk for patients.
• Armrests can provide additional aid in helping patients rise from their chair without changing their knee or hip angles.
• Sturdy furniture is crucial. If a patient attempts to stand up from an unbalanced chair, the risk of falling can increase. This is also a risk for children as unbalanced furniture could tip and land on a small child.
• If a patient does fall, they could potentially fall into furniture. For this reason, chairs and tables should not have sharp edges.
• Bariatric seating should also be incorporated into your furniture selection. According to the Center for Health Design, bariatric seating should be offer “appropriately sized elements with capacity adequate for the obese patients, interspersed with more traditional furnishings to avoid confining bariatric patients to specific areas of the waiting environment.” The seating selected should be hold up to 700 pounds to help reduce fall risk for heavier patients.
Comfort is Caring
The comfort of your patients should also be kept in mind. The comfort of medical furnishings should reflect the duration of the stay your patients and guests will be experiencing. If you are furnishing a maternity ward, for example, you’ll want to ensure that the bed is comfortable for your patient but that there is adequate seating for multiple guests that are likely to visit such as new grandparents as well as a place for the other new parent to catch some Z’s.
Putting some thought into the comfort of your patients and their guests shows that your practice cares about them. The right furnishings can help make a potentially stressful situation less so if they have a comfortable place to wait and be treated.
CORE offers a wide variety of furnishings for all of your medical office needs. Visit CORE online to see what we have to offer the healthcare industry or call us today at (520) 999-3470 to schedule a free initial consultation.