"Despite the constant interface between furniture and patients, visitors, caregivers, and staff, it is mostly overlooked as an evidence-based design strategy. According to "A Review of the Research Literature on Evidence-Based Healthcare Design" by Ulrich and Zimring published in the Spring 2008 edition of the Health Environments Research & Design Journal [HERD Journal], "well-designed physical settings play an important role in making hospitals safer and more healing for patients, and better places for staff to work." While the review evaluates the importance of the physical setting, furniture is mostly overlooked. Utilizing the paper's results including "Improving Patient Safety Through Environmental Measures," "Improving Other Patient Outcomes Through Environmental Measures," and "Improving Staff Outcomes Through Environmental Measures," we posit: can evidence-based design also inform furniture selections? While visiting healthcare furniture manufacturer Nemschoff in Sheboygan, Wisc., our team engaged in discussions with company leadership, factory managers, and product representatives in order to evaluate furniture's potential influence on patient outcomes and use as an evidence-based design strategy.
Well-designed healthcare furniture could reduce the spread of infection in all areas of the hospital, from the lobby to clinical spaces. Furniture must be easily cleaned and maintained. Fabrics need to resist stains and withstand multiple cleanings per day. Specifically, Nemschoff's durable wood finish withstands bleach. Ancient methods of utilizing silver and copper are reemerging as ways to prevent antimicrobial growth on fabric and textiles. Moisture barriers prevent the transmission of fluids into the seating foam while removable fabric covers ease cleaning and replacement. Smooth surfaces along with minimal edge details also limit the areas that can harbor microbial growth. Clean-out areas ease maintenance and prohibit the growth of microbes around the seat.
Since patients are often transferred while in a treatment chair, the furniture must incorporate safety elements. Casters with a center lock and steer ease the caregiver's efforts in moving a patient from one location to another. Footrests attached to the chair keep the patient's feet off the floor and in a comfortable, ergonomic position. Specific Nemschoff treatment chairs provide an additional safety feature such as the ability to recline fully-flat for the performance of emergency procedures.
... No matter the scale of the healthcare facility, it is important to incorporate sustainable furniture into the design. Low VOC finishes and dry construction methods limit the amount of toxic chemicals that enter the hospital and are inhaled by all users. As such, furniture can contribute to improved indoor air quality and create a better environment for all to work and heal.
In conclusion, can furniture selection influence patient outcomes? Yes, there is potential, and it merits further study. Utilizing evidence-based design strategies while making furniture selections may contribute to creating a healing environment. Given the constant use that furniture receives from patients, family, and caregivers, furniture selection may have a reciprocal effect on evidence-based design and as such, may create its own place as a design strategy for improving patient outcomes." (Continued via Contract Magazine, Matthew DeGeeter, Moira Gannon, et al) [Ergonomics Resources]