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A couple of weeks ago, in my review of the Healthcare Design Expo and Conference, I observed that truly innovative products for healthcare spaces don't come along all that often.

That prompted a comment from Bill Coble, V.P. Customer Relations at Stance Healthcare, who wrote, "Innovation is an over used word. Healthcare is heavily regulated and often requires a true collaborative effort."

Bill is a long-time industry friend who has worked for several other furniture companies that are also known for their original ideas, including Steelcase, Herman Miller, and iOA Furniture. So he knows what he's talking about.

But is Bill right? Is innovation an overused word? Probably. And healthcare is highly regulated, which does complicate things.

Making it Better

I still think that in any industry, it is very rare that a product comes along that’s a game changer. The iPhone and the first suitcase with wheels manufactured by U.S. Luggage come to mind.

And yet both were evolutions of existing products. We already had smart phones and we already had suitcases.

But we didn't have suitcases we could roll without using bungee cords to strap them to a clunky metal roller attachment. And we didn't have a smart phone that was easy to use and intuitive (RIP Blackberry).

After those new products came along, manufacturers all over the world scrambled to produce their own versions, adding more cool new features so that they could evolve into something better.

And that's certainly what has happened with products for healthcare spaces.

10 Innovative Product Ideas

A few years ago, with input from healthcare interior designers Tama Duffy Day, Barbara Huelat, and Jocelyn Stroupe, as well as Nightingale Product Design Awards and Best of Neocon Awards coordinator Eileen McMorrow, I came up with a list of 10 Innovative Product Ideas That Have Improved the Patient Experience.

Some, like patient chairs with dynamic motion, sleeper sofas, height-adjustable multi-position recliners, bariatric furniture, headwalls that conceal medical gasses, and solid surfacing materials, are product evolutions.

Others, like anti-microbial treatment for carpet/fabrics, privacy glass windows, nature and music programming, and virtual skylights/windows, are completely new products.

But all were born from original ideas that no one had thought of before and are now widely produced by a variety of manufacturers. "There is innovation as it is introducing improvements to an existing system or platform," Bill wrote to me in an email when I reached out to him this week.

He offered an example of a drape that is transparent, biodegradable, and has infection control properties. "This is innovation based on our current systems of design and manufacturing," he stated.

More Innovative Product Ideas

The patient experience continues to influence much of the innovation of products that are used in healthcare spaces. Health and safety, comfort and convenience for both patients and staff are key drivers.

Some more recent product innovations for healthcare spaces that I like are:

  1. Waiting room seating that has electrical outlets and USB ports for plugging in electronic devices. (Yes, this is innovative, because like wheels on suitcases, no one thought of it right away.)
  2. Tunable lighting systems that simulate the 24-hour cycle of natural light.
  3. UV ceiling lights that kill bacteria.
  4. Floor sensors that can provide data on how people move through environments and sound alarms if patients or residents trip or fall.
  5. Ligature resistant doors and hardware to prevent mental health patients from inflicting self-harm.
  6. Freestanding office pods that can be used for virtual medical visits.

What other products for healthcare spaces do you think have been truly innovative? Post in the comment box below or send me an email.

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Photo: Flo, a Behavioral Health dining collection from Stance Healthcare. Winner of a 2021 Nightingale Gold Award.

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Marjorie Serrano

1 week ago

Innovation may be an overused word, but we always need more true innovation!
Also we should all keep in mind that search engines and platforms like LinkedIn are constantly feeding you more of what you usually read. The idea of innovation and design-thinking may not be as universal as our personal feeds would indicate.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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