Patient-friendly pieces: Stryker Medical makes furniture that makes patients feel at home

By James Scalzitti  
Furniture & Interiors
Copyright 2006 Gale Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Dr. Homer Stryker founded Stryker Corp. in 1941 around the premiseof "how he could help both patients and caregivers" according to Erin Dvorak, Stryker Medical furniture product manager.

That same theme remains a guiding principle for Stryker Medical, the division of Stryker Corp.--now a $5 billion company--that produceshospital beds, stretchers and patient room furniture.

An orthopedic surgeon in Kalamazoo, Mich., one of the first products developed by Homer Stryker was the wedge turning frame, a then-revolutionary product that allowed moving of patients with spinal injuries.

In the 1940s he invented the cast cutter, the first of many powered instruments to come from his company.

Feels Like Home

"The No. 1 thing in healthcare today is a real trend to make things feel like home," Dvorak says. "Having a comfortable environment is clinical in nature, because people feel better and recuperate faster."

Stryker Medical has a marketing team which partners with differentdesigners and medical industry groups, to design and refine productsthat "improve patient and caregiver quality of life," Dvorak says. "Stryker strives to provide its customers with furniture that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but which also has that clinical aspect.

"What we're able to do, is provide our customers with pieces that really look dynamic and provide clinical value that is essential in the hospital environment."

One of Stryker Medical's most popular furniture products is its overbed table. "We launched the new overbed table a year ago," Dvorak says, "and it has just exploded in the marketplace."

The overbed table comes with either single or split tops, with or without vanities. The table is highly versatile and easily slides under beds, stretchers and mobile recliners, the company states. The table won the 2004 Nightingale Competition for design excellence in the healthcare field.

The table has proven so popular with healthcare professionals for a number of reasons, Dvorak says.

"It actually fits with things," she says. The U-shaped base of thetable cradles the fifth wheel in the center of a hospital bed.

"It is common to see overhead tables butted against the side of the bed because they're H-shaped," Dvorak points out.

Additionally, "it's extremely intuitive. To release it, you just grab where there are hand-holds and pull. You can grab it anywhere on the top to raise it. It only takes five pounds of pressure to releaseit. Caregivers love the fact that it's so intuitive and they can just put it in front of the patient and [the patient] can figure out howto use it. Maintenance staff like it because they have very few parts to deal with if they ever need to service it."

She points out that Stryker has, with its new overbed tables, reduced the number of parts in the cylinder by 50 percent, making it easier to service.

The table is not merely available in a standard hospital gray color, either. "Designers," she adds, "love the fact that it comes in numerous colors. There are seven different laminates and a full range ofcustom capabilities." Casters on the table are hidden, contributing to a less institutional look.

Incorporating Design Trends

In January 2005, Stryker launched three new styles of bedside stands, Dvorak says.

"In the year before, we traveled around the country and asked [designers] 'what are your three latest and greatest trends?'" she says.

"We developed three bedside stands that fit those genres--Shaker, contemporary and traditional."

The stands have a variety of laminate and hardware options, while also featuring removable plastic drawers and drawer liners and concealed casters, she says.

"We partnered with a company that molds wood," Dvorak says. This resulted in a specialized thermoform process that creates a seam-free finish on the stand's top and front panels.

The removable drawers and drawer liners allow hospitals to remove them from the stand and power-wash them.

"Over the past few years, there has been more of a focus on design" when it comes to hospital furniture, Dvorak says.

"There are more designers involved in the process," she adds. "Additionally, hospitals are demanding excellence from their furniture." Hospitals are treating room furniture not as something that will be pushed into a corner, but something that is "an integral part of the room."

The right furniture, she adds, can make a difference in how patients are treated and can have a profound affect on patient health and recovery.

Ease of Use

One of the biggest emerging trends in hospital furniture is ease of use, for healthcare personnel and patients alike, Dvorak says.

Designers are looking more at how patients use the products, she adds, if it works ergonomically for them, and "how we can help with anything going on in the patient's room."

Dvorak is proud of "how Stryker takes care of our customers. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that those people are happy. So many organizations can get caught up in bureaucracy and internal goals that don't really matter," she adds, but at Stryker the customer remains the main focus.

Stryker's furniture is in hospitals throughout North America and in some parts of Latin America, Dvorak says.

The company is "always looking to continue to offer new options and upgrade designs, looks and features," she says.

"Innovation is one of our key components and our key strategies for future success."

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