Dan Greenfield | August 23, 2016
What an Exam Room Fixture Says about Healthcare Furniture and Technology
The physician stool. Humble in its stature and simple in its design. Pretty low tech and for over a hundred years, it has served its purpose with few modifications save an extra leg for stability.
Now consider today’s exam room. Doctors are juggling charts, laptops, iPads, and mobile devices. Electronic devices are as common as a physician’s stethoscope and have fundamentally changed doctor patient interaction.
Which leads me to my central point.
Let’s face it – health tech is cool; a physician stool is not. There is a constant demand for the latest and greatest electronic devices. Upgrading your healthcare furniture is much less common, even though new designs exist that make a physician’s job easier, more comfortable and can improve the patient experience.
So why is that? Many reasons says Michelle Ossmann, MSN, PhD, the director of healthcare environments at Steelcase Health. As in many corporate environments, furniture and the physical space are not seen as a recruiting tool and a way to improve performance and productivity. More specifically, doctors are trained to ignore their own physical needs in the service of treating patients. And while doctors and hospitals are quick to embrace new treatments and technologies, furniture is not seen as critical to outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
Where The Traditional Physician Stool Falls Short
Overall healthcare furniture has evolved considerably with new designs, materials and construction. The same can’t be said about the physician stool which:
Lacks basic ergonomic support: Doctors are forced to stand at carts with computers to chart or sit on small stools, lean against a wall or casegood, and place their technology on a counter.
Fails to accommodate today’s technology: With no place to put their computer or tablet, physicians are hindered in their ability to transition quickly between consultation, inputting data, sharing information, ordering labs or prescriptions and performing a physical exam.
The result for physicians is less efficiency, less than ideal interaction with patients and increased fatigue and discomfort.
A Furniture Makeover for the Electronic Age
The physicians stool like the exam room is in need of a makeover.
Fortunately there are alternative designs to the traditional physician stool that are ergonomic, can accommodate the electronic needs of today’s physicians and allow for better physician patient interaction.
We are intrigued by the Node with ShareSurface by Steelcase.
It is a departure from an old model of healthcare when physical exams required minimal charting or typing on a computer.
It reflects findings from Steelcase Health’s research.
Today’s exam room needs to be designed for “mutual participation, a partnership between the physician, patient and family.”
It’s features include a swivel-seated chair enables clear, eye-to-eye sight lines between patient and physician when using mobile technology such as laptops or tablets and a built-in, movable arm with a surface that swivels 360 degrees. This allows doctors to input data about the patient during the visit and share information on the screen with patients and families while maintaining a connection with them.
Making the Change
So how we can get off the notion that the classic stool is good enough? Dr. Ossmann believes that the shift in thinking will come down to providing evidence based and clinic studies that demonstrate the benefits of healthcare furniture– from higher CAHP and HCAHP patient satisfaction scores to improved patient outcomes.
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