Finding and buying furniture for waiting rooms, exam rooms and other healthcare settings is critical: The people giving and receiving care in these environments need to be comfortable. At the same time, this furniture needs to last to make the most of your investment.
Chris Breaux, Staples Director National Accounts — Furniture, provides insight and tips to help with this specialized purchase. Read his advice to find the items that can stretch your healthcare furniture dollars further and provide comfort.
Invest Right the First Time
Healthcare furniture does heavy-duty work. It has to be easily cleanable, stand up to commercial-level wear and tear and meet standards that traditional furniture does not. For example, healthcare furniture must meet bariatric weight capacity requirements so it can safely and comfortably accommodate heavy or obese people. Furthermore, healthcare chairs are designated as “24/7,” meaning they can hold up to round-the-clock use, as opposed to eight-hour use for a typical chair.
Since healthcare-grade furniture usually commands a higher price tag, it may be tempting to purchase traditional items to save money. “Sometimes, buyers have a budget and need to replace 10 chairs,” Breaux explains. “Healthcare furniture is more expensive, so they buy regular items. But in two years, they have to replace them and buy new furniture.”
Breaux suggests bringing in an expert — like an ergonomist or other specialist — to help make the case to executives for a bigger budget.
Pay Attention to the Details
Once you decide to buy healthcare-grade furniture, be sure you’re getting the right materials for all parts. One common misstep is choosing a healthcare-grade piece of furniture but inadvertently selecting traditional-grade finishes. In this case, the fabric and materials will not stand up to the wear and tear of waiting rooms and exam rooms. Traditional finishes also typically cannot tolerate the cleaning solutions used in healthcare settings.
“Healthcare architects and furniture designers realize the importance of the right finishes, and we’ve seen a huge improvement in purchasing knowledge in the last five years,” Breaux says. “However, some smaller companies that are not healthcare specialists may not know the right product or fabric to buy.”
Avoid this mistake by carefully choosing every element of a purchase to meet healthcare-grade standards.
Maintain and Replace Furniture
Although the focus in healthcare settings is on caring for people, keeping furniture in good shape is an important consideration for providing optimal care. Tears, cracks and other degradation that would be a nuisance in another setting can be a hazard in a healthcare location. Addressing wear and tear before patients do is also critical due to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey about the cleanliness and appearance of the healthcare environment.
Breaux has two recommendations for ways buyers can maximize the lifetime value of a purchase. On the maintenance front, he recommends staving off undue wear and tear by ensuring that cleaning teams are aware of manufacturers’ care specifications. For example, some fabrics and finishes cannot withstand treatment with any bleach, a common cleaning component in healthcare settings.
Breaux also recommends purchasing furniture that allows for replacement of portions of an item, rather than the entire piece. These “100 percent renewable” items, for instance, let you unzip, remove and replace a chair cover, rather than having to purchase a new chair.
Be sure to investigate what warranties come with the furniture you purchase. In most cases, healthcare furniture manufacturers will stand behind a five-to-seven-year limited lifetime warranty for items. Replacements required before that are most often made to a portion of an item, such as an arm or back of a chair. Make the most of your investment by anticipating how the furniture will be both used and cleaned.