Furniture Design Features and Healthcare Outcomes

May 01, 2011

Healthcare facilities provide the physical structure that shapes care delivery and the experience of patients, their families, and the staff who care for them, ultimately impacting healthcare outcomes and cost. With healthcare expenditures now representing 17.6 percent of the GDP (Martin, et al, 2011), attention must be focused on all of the many variables that contribute to healthcare costs, directly and indirectly. Porter (2010) describes healthcare value as the health outcomes achieved per dollar spent; he includes structure as one of the factors that can influence or enable processes that result in improved outcomes.

In this article, we have focus on furniture as one of the many structural elements that research has revealed can play an important, but often unconsidered role, in quality care outcomes. Existing research findings have been translated into a practical checklist tool to facilitate furniture decision-making activities across the furniture life cycle to maximize investments. Through its development and use, we have learned that the checklist also provides designers with a helpful evaluation and communication tool when developing furniture solutions for their clients. We have identified many research opportunities for interdisciplinary teams to expand the science and help us better understand the role furniture plays in affecting outcomes, as well as recommending specific examination of government and industry standards to enhance patient safety and improve the healthcare experience. As a result of this work, we have come to appreciate that furniture represents far more than just something to sit on, an overhead expense, or sunk cost, but rather an important piece of the quality healthcare puzzle.

Eileen B. Malone, RN MSN, MS, EDAC
Barbara A. Dellinger, MA, AAHID, IIDA, CID, EDAC
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The Center for Health Design

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