No matter what type of doctor or medical treatment you are receiving, all healthcare facilities have one thing in common - waiting areas. A great amount of time has been spent by all in some form or another waiting for a medical professional or loved one. Therefore, when designers, purchasers, architects, or medical professionals decide on how to accommodate patients, families, and staff, they should consider the following guidelines.
1. Comfort. Patients and family members spend more time waiting in healthcare than any other activity. The furniture you dedicate to your waiting areas should be comforting not only in physical design, but also aesthetic appeal. “Cozy”, “homey”, and “soothing” are all popular adjectives that describe how healthcare interiors should appeal to people using them.Some ways to achieve both physical and aesthetic comfort are to incorporate a variety of seating. For long term waiting areas, mix high-back lounge seating with comfy loveseats. Arrange seating and occasional tables in clusters so that people can maintain their personal space. For short term waiting areas, try space-saving, ganged, lounge seating with both single and double seats. Choose fabrics and upholsteries with warm, inviting colors in a variety of patterns.
2. Cleanliness. Ability to clean is a must in healthcare. Between the germs, food and other substances people bring with them, and the sheer volume of people who pass through a medical facility on any given day, furniture and interior spaces need to remain sanitary. The best way to combat this is to choose furniture with scratch/stain resistant surfaces, easy-to-clean fabrics and upholsteries (like vinyl or leather alternatives), and seating with wipe out backs (aka gaps between the seat and back so dirt isn’t lost between the cushions). Apart from the obvious medical reasons for cleanliness, keeping a clean waiting area with also help with visitors’ comfort.
3. Weight. The United States has one of the largest obesity rates in the world. With that demographic in mind, healthcare facilities are now seeing a large need for bariatric options. Weight capacities up to 300 lbs are no longer accommodating everyone in the waiting room. Consider as well that multiple people may occupy one chair. Let’s say a larger individual is also holding two children on either knee. The combined weight of all of those people might be more than the average piece of furniture can hold.
4. Durability. Waiting areas put up with a lot of wear and tear. Choose quality solutions for your interior spaces. Use manufactures that provide warranty services. Consider the make and build of the table, chair, magazine rack or other piece of furniture in the space. Are arms and legs reinforced? Are you able to easily replace parts such as seats without replacing an entire chair if something were to break? Can you re-arrange without things falling apart? Does the design of the item have a wall-saver feature so it won’t markup walls? Purchasing furniture is a big commitment; make sure your solution will stand up to the crowds.
5. Multi-Use. What are people doing while they wait, and who is using the space? Cell phones and tablets allow us to take technology on the go, but do people have the ability to recharge them once they’ve used up the battery life? Adding charging stations or easy-to-access outlets give individuals the ability to continue using devices. Try adding furniture with electrical outlets built in. Not only will those using the space have a place to plug in, the area will be safer when cords are not stretched out from the wall or floor outlets.
Also entertain the idea that someone may be working remotely from a waiting area. A café height stool with standing-height worksurface may better accommodate staff who are passing through or persons waiting by themselves. Families often have small children or babies in tow. Does the space have the ability to accommodate the needs of those individuals? Perhaps a medical professional is taking a break or meeting with family members to give updates. Your waiting area is much more than a room full of chairs. Choose a solution that accommodates people’s lives while they wait.