Selecting the perfect chair for a hospital waiting room, clinic lobby, or exam room can be a daunting task. What makes for a sleek work of art in a corporate lobby may be impractical in a healthcare setting. Conversely, selecting a chair because it’s cheap could leave you regretting that decision later if it fails or needs to be replaced.
We have compiled a list of the 10 most important features to look for when selecting a chair for healthcare. Keep in mind there are very few chairs that exhibit all 10 attributes. It’s up to you to decide which are most essential for your healthcare project.
A good chair in a healthcare environment should be firmly planted on the ground with little or no chance of tipping over. Guests may drop into the chair with a good amount of force putting them at risk for tipping over. Sick patients often use the chair for support when standing up or maneuvering through a waiting room. The chair should not easily slide or roll away from someone who is using it for support. Chairs with casters should lock in place.
Armless slipper chairs are very popular in hotel and corporate lobbies but are not appropriate as the only option in a healthcare waiting room. The elderly, sick or injured may need a chair with arms to hoist themselves into a standing position. Chair arms shouldn’t slope too dramatically and should extend forward far enough for the patient to grasp comfortably.
Most healthcare facilities need their furniture to last at least 10 years (some much longer) and may clean their upholstery infrequently. Select a guest chair with wood, urethane, or solid surface arms or arm caps. Arm caps make it easier to sanitize and avoid dirt stains. If the chair you love doesn’t come with arm caps, call the furniture manufacturer. Many will add arm caps for little extra cost. When selecting a wood chair (arms or legs) check that the manufacturer offers a “catalyzed wood finish”. A catalyzed finish will hold up when cleaned with a 10% bleach solution.
Lounge chairs typically have a lower seat height than side chairs. When selecting a lounge chair confirm that the seat height is high enough for a sick or elderly patient to exit easily. Look for a seat height of approximately 18”H and avoid seats with a significant backward slope. People with arthritic knees and hips find it difficult to sit or rise from a chair seat lower than 18”.
Help your client avoid patching and repainting walls by selecting wall-saver guest chairs. Wall-saver describes the design feature in which the rear legs extend beyond the chair back. This feature protects the wall from being scraped or gouged when a chair is pushed up against it. Wall-saver models may allow the designer to avoid cluttering up the walls with wall-protection panels or chair rails that may be aesthetically undesirable.
The clean-out is another feature commonly provided by chair manufacturers that specialize in healthcare. The clean-out is simply a gap between the seat and back where crumbs and debris can be pushed off the chair and vacuumed or swept off the floor.
Furniture manufacturers that offer field-replaceable parts can be hard to find, but offer a great incentive to facilities with busy waiting areas such as emergency departments. If a chair back were to break, for example, it is less expensive and faster to replace when the manufacturer sends the new part directly to the facility instead of the facility sending the entire chair out for repair or replacement.
Our healthcare system is seeing more bariatric patients than ever before. With the population becoming heavier it is important that facilities designate at least some percentage of seating to bariatric patients. Bariatric chairs aren’t just larger; they are reinforced to accommodate greater weight too. Most standard guest chairs are rated for 250 lbs. (varies by manufacturer) but a bariatric chair may be rated for over 700 lbs. If you wish to achieve a uniform appearance in your lobby or waiting area, look for a series of chairs that offer both standard size and bariatric options.
Any healthcare furniture manufacturer worth their salt offers their product with a C.O.M. (Customers Own Material) option. Selecting the right upholstery is just as important as selecting the right chair for healthcare (but that’s another article altogether). When selecting upholstery for healthcare, the designer needs to consider the fiber content, dye method, cleanability, double-rubs, moisture barrier, TB-133, and the look and feel of course. If the chair manufacturer you are considering doesn’t offer a C.O.M. option, they may not be ready to break into the healthcare market.
Warranties are funny things. There is a lot of legal-speak and fine print. There are also significant variations between manufacturers. When it comes to warranties, reputation is everything. Look for companies who stand by their warranties. Keep in mind that upholstery is usually not covered under warranty or is covered with limitations. Some manufacturers limit their warranty to facilities that operate only 8 hours per day. Hospitals may not be covered or may have limited coverage. Also, normal wear-and-tear is usually not covered. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your manufacturer’s warranty and don’t be afraid to ask your product rep about their company’s history of honoring their warranty.
There is no perfect chair for all healthcare applications. You’ll find that some chair features will be more important than others in a project. In most cases, offering a variety of seating options in a lobby or waiting room is better both aesthetically and functionally. No one chair will be comfortable for everyone.