What to remember about LTC furniture

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Mark Bollman
Mark Bollman

The number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double by 2050, making up the largest market segment in healthcare. As the nation ages, competition among healthcare providers has stimulated an increased demand for cost-effective ways to maintain a health system's brand and heighten the patient experience; one simple yet overlooked means to do this is through furniture maintenance and consistency.

Healthcare administrators often consider furniture a sunken cost as they believe it needs to be repeatedly replaced in order to preserve quality and durability, as well as meet health standards. In fact, a typical new 200,000 square foot, 120-bed inpatient hospital, for example, may have over 1,600 individual pieces of furniture. Thankfully, habitual replacement is not usually necessary. Many decision-makers are unaware that they can be proactive and simply repair a facility's damaged furniture which will in turn help reduce costs associated with hospital-acquired infections, furnishing replacement, waste management and housekeeping. This is especially applicable when damage is first detected and is minor.

Furniture is a major breeding ground for germs. It should be nonporous and smooth with no rips or holes to prevent fluids and bacteria from penetrating the surface and to help control the spread of infection. Since 80% of all infections are spread by hand contact with contaminated surfaces, it's essential for business owners to be proactive and not neglect their unkempt seating and health equipment. 

Long-term care facilities have regular, everyday incidents like wheelchairs bumping into furniture, or residents with incontinence. This can quickly add up and result in damaged and/or germ-covered furniture. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% to 30% of those admitted to hospitals already have an infection and two million patients each year contract a hospital-acquired infection (HAI). Since most patients enter a hospital or senior living facility already depleted, stressed or fragile, doing something as simple as maintaining furniture becomes that much more crucial.

The following are different factors healthcare administrators and owners should keep in mind when caring for their furniture:

 

  • Cleaning – In waiting areas, preoccupied families spill coffee or soda, and stain resistance is essential. In patient rooms, soothing colors and textures, clean-ability and antimicrobial properties rise to the top of the list. In a surgical suite, stringent infection control, one-use disposable products and comfortable staff work wear might be the priorities.

 

  • Choosing a Cleanser – Furniture is often made of multiple materials, which means a variety of material-specific cleaning methods and solutions complicates the cleaning process. This can cause inconsistent results and lengthen the time needed to clean a room, affecting room turnover time. Both of these issues increase costs for healthcare institutions. Using the wrong cleanser can not only decrease a material's protective properties, but in some cases eliminate those qualities completely.

 

  •   Upholstery – To keep furniture looking good over the long term, it is important to select upholstery that will stand up to 24-hours-per-day use and frequent cleaning. Look for high-performance textiles that resist stains, moisture, and bacteria. Upholstery that is soft and breathable (but with woven barriers that prevent fluids from penetrating the fabric) is beneficial. Also, look for treatments that can be applied to fabric to create a protective barrier without sacrificing the feel of the fabric. Before you make your final selection, make sure the upholstery is compatible with your cleaning methods.

Mark J. Bollman has been the President and Director of Creative Colors International since May of 2000. He can be reached via email at Mark.Bollman@CreativeColorsIntl.com or via phone at 708-478-1437x223.

 

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