Furniture for comfort and healing

Some key criteria to focus on while procuring furniture would be the department where it would be used

The furniture in hospitals has become an integral part of the value proposition in patient care. It sets the level of expectation amongst patients the moment they step into the lobby of a hospital. Apart from defining the positioning, it also plays a major role in the outcome and comfort level of the patient during his stay.

An inpatient spends maximum time on a bed at a hospital which accounts for over 95% utilization during his or her stay. The outpatient area is utilised by a large number of patients and their attendants visiting the facility. They use services at consultations, lobby, phlebotomy, physiotherapy etc.

While the inpatient area caters to 24 hours of patient comfort and monitoring, the outpatient area witnesses a huge turnover of customers in limited space and time.
The furniture design and specifications differ for each area.
The inpatient area focuses on beds with their accessories required for patient care, various patient-positions and maneuverability. The attendant cot has to be equally comfortable.

The outpatient area demands furniture which should not only be durable and strong, it needs to be comfortable and aesthetically in sync with the ambience. This area serves as waiting zone and the furniture design should ensure that the personal space of patients is not encroached upon.

Some of the key criteria to focus on while procuring furniture would be the department where it would be used, the warranty on product and maintenance required for the upkeep of the furniture.
Areas like ER require quick transfer of patients along with multiple attachments, hence the beds or trolleys have to be sturdy, efficient in design as well as light to handle by caregivers. This is applicable for the inpatient beds too. The furniture design needs to ensure that there are no sharp edges. Sometimes, the elevators turn into limiting factor because of poor designing. This may affect the size specifications of patient trolleys and cots.

The delivery of furniture on time is critical for running smooth operations. Apart from that, we need to focus on the warranty and after sales support for the furniture. The availability of spares may become a challenge resulting in certain expensive and critical furniture pieces to be inoperative.

The supplier credentials as well as payment terms and conditions are very important. Peer review serves as a good source of information for benchmarking and procuring furniture.

Some manufacturers may extend a period of trial for a few pieces of furniture to assess the functionality of their product. This feature is very common at airport lounges where many sellers display their products as part of sales strategy as well as to showcase the durability of their product.
Many a times, the buyers get carried away with some unique features of the furniture which would be rarely used. This leads to needless investment and exceeding the budget. This in the long run affects the feasibility of the project. 

The furniture for different areas and specialties differ. In general, for OPDs, the seating needs to be comfortable and spacious – for patient and their accompanying attendants. It should respect patient’s personal space and should allow easy accessibility to maintain and manage it. Shifting and cleaning of the furniture is a regular feature undertaken at outpatient areas.

In orthopaedics and physiotherapy areas, seat sizes are larger to accommodate patients with support. Same is observed at birthing centres addressing the needs of pregnant women. Some special requirements are desired for lactation needs and baby care of newborn. The paediatric centre usually caters to a younger age group with colorful furniture and accessible seating. In current trends, OPDs at many hospitals and centres are focusing on soft seat sofas and lounge chairs.
Beds for bariatric centre are designed differently. They need to withstand weights above 250 kgs and are wider in size. For orthopaedic units, beds need special attachments. Similarly, ICU and HDU beds have elevation modalities and additional attachments features. At many daycare centres like dialysis and chemotherapy units, beds have been replaced with foot elevating relaxing chairs - lazy boys.

The future of furniture in healthcare should focus on space saving designs with multipurpose functions. Already voice controlled features have been introduced in room amenities.  The same is expected to extend to furniture - to bring down costs on nursing and hospital assistants as well as ease of functionality.Dr Mudit Saxena is CEO and MD of Ovum Hospitals.