Is hospital furniture a growing area of your business?
There’s a misconception out there that health care is the Holy Grail for the furniture industry. It’s growing, but the potential is nothing like office furniture was or is.
Is furniture used in health care settings changing?
Absolutely. With the move to private rooms, hospital rooms are becoming smaller. Furnishings have to be designed for multiple functions, ease of use, maintenance and cleaning. My overbed table, for instance, is becoming very popular because it combines a bedside table and an end table. It’s a high-end product, but quite cost-competitive when you consider it combines two pieces of furniture. Patients have shelves to store belongings right in it. It’s what was chosen for Baystate Medical Center (a Springfield, Mass., hospital associated with Tufts University School of Medicine) that was designed as a “hospital of the future.”
Is there more to furnishing “hospitals of the future” than compact efficiency?
The big emphasis is designing furniture that can be cleaned thoroughly. They don’t want nooks and crannies where filth can build up. Housekeeping is not going to keep it clean unless it’s easy to keep clean. A major problem facing hospitals right now is hospital-acquired infections. That means catching something in the hospital that you didn’t have when you came. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), hospital-acquired infections cost the health care industry $35 billion annually, and about 70 percent are preventable.
Hospital rooms today feel less clinical, more homelike. What’s that about?
As a kid, I was in the emergency room a lot with asthma. Hospitals were white, scary places where you didn’t want to be. Now there’s a hospitality emphasis. They want patients to feel like they’re in a hotel. This has a lot to do with how hospitals will be compensated in the future. When you go in for a procedure, you’ll rate the medical services, environment, food, everything. That survey will have a direct impact on how the hospital is compensated. Dingy facilities won’t cut it anymore, for good reason. Studies show patients recuperate up to 40 percent faster in a nicer environment.
Why do you prefer projects your company can design, develop and manufacture?
That’s the best way to build jobs in West Michigan, the best manufacturing corridor in the nation. And it makes good business sense. I can get 90 percent of the materials I use from less than 100 miles away. Frankly, profit margins just aren’t there today. Better to design to your local or regional manufacturing capabilities.