8 Key flooring selection criteria that influence patient experience

Key Factors for Choosing the Right Flooring in Health Facilities

Flooring in Health Facilities

As healthcare has continued to evolve, it is not only about treatment anymore, but also about providing a healthcare experience that nurtures. Interiors and material considerations and have also evolved to meet these changing needs.
Like any other industry, the experience focuses on the customer, or in case of health facilities, the patient. Ensuring that patient’s wellbeing remains a priority. It is vital for organizations to ensure all details of the built environment are considered. Flooring, which covers every inch of a footprint, is no exception.

Hospital floors are often excluded as a likely source for infection. Flooring for healthcare facilities encompasses a multifaceted job to enhance safety, reduce stress, facilitate patient satisfaction, and supply a solid return on investment (ROI) and must to excel in all of these areas. Just as each medical space has its own specific needs and requirements, flooring in healthcare applications must meet certain criteria to comply with the requirements of Health facilities.
This is an immense topic; I have narrowed down this article to focus on the key Selection Criteria for Flooring in Health Facilities.

The primary requirement defining the choice of flooring for healthcare is that the functional performance of the flooring should match the users’ requirements. This includes not only the physical or functional performance, but also different factors that impact users and patients, and are a recognised as an integral component of the healing environment, e.g., acoustics, colour, texture, and comfort level.

Flooring material properties can be classified as hard, resilient, or soft. Best examples of hard and soft materials can be ceramic tiles and textile finishes respectively. Resilient finishes include vinyl sheet, rubber, and linoleum, spanning from semi rigid (vinyl composition tiles) to semi soft (acoustic backed, with Under lays for vinyl and rubber). Additional Properties within each category include imperviousness, smoothness, slip‐resistance, fire hazard properties, dirt retention/control, component size and method of joining, all these factors affect suitability of application.

1- Sanitization & Anti-Microbial Properties:
Infection control objectives and practices are a key element influencing the operation and design of healthcare facilities. Floor finishes and environmental cleaning protocols are a part of the overall infection control risk management strategy, and relevant legislative and accreditation obligations. Flooring should be spill-resistant and sealed to avoid microbes and germs from spreading. Ease of maintenance is also critical. Hospital flooring standards are strict for a reason. Seams must be properly sealed to ensure the surfaces must reject moisture, bacteria, and allergens. Floor or Skirtings must be flashed up the wall to eliminate any wall-floor gap. The topcoat needs to be thick and withstand scratching. It is worth exploring the flooring systems which are formulated to resist microbes and, support sanitation goals.

2- Slip resistance: 
Flooring must be stable and slip resistant. Transitions between different types of floorings must be smooth without height differences that lead to tripping.

3- Chemical Resistance: 
Whether you’re at a facility or lab that requires heavy-duty cleaning or working with chemicals, the floor must be designed to endure chemical corrosion. Corrosion can lead to hazardous damage to the flooring and lead to costly repairs or unexpected shutdown. A tough, chemical-resistant coating will help safeguard the flooring.

4- Acoustics:
Where patients are attempting to sleep and staff is trying to concentrate, a floor cannot echo the sound of every footfall. The flooring should absorb noise effectively. Sources of noise could be foot traffic, fixed and mobile equipment, communication devices, staff activities, speech, and a variety of other internal and external sources. In patient accommodation areas, it is generally accepted that noise can adversely affect the healing process, while in residential aged care noise can adversely impact on a home‐like environment. In many treatment and consultation areas privacy is an extremely important requirement. In staff areas, sound control will facilitate good working environment.  Some activities/areas could be subject to OHS requirements concerning noise.

5- Safety
While hospitals do take measures to prevent risk of falling, falls do happen occasionally. Flooring must have some allowance to protect against falls, especially in patient areas. Having an Under lay or Vinyl and rubber flooring options can reduce the impact of fall. Additionally, they also reduce joint stress on doctors, nurses, and the staff who are on the move all day. Any dropped equipment is also less damaged and likely to continue functioning properly.

6- Aesthetic: 
The right flooring for healthcare facilities welcomes people. Patients and families must feel calm and comforted. It must communicate professionalism and cleanliness. Staff need to enjoy working in the area. Colour is important, as is the floor’s ability to reflect and amplify lighting, especially where natural light shines in. The floor must not have glare giving people a sense that they are going to slip.

The use of colour, pattern and texture for practical purposes is particularly relevant in flooring, as it influences in providing an interior environment that assists the intended outcomes such as healing, stress reduction and a home like atmosphere. Designers must be encouraged to create designs that identify, unify or separate spaces, and add aesthetic and functional value, serve as a wayfinding device for general use or for specific user profiles like patients with dementia.
Inappropriate floor patterns can create a risk for some users by causing disorientation or dizziness and can adversely affect intended outcomes or the tolerance of occupants, to the point of requiring early replacement.

7- Environmental Impact: 
​Surfaces must be sterile and promote healing, a floor’s maintenance products and procedures are critical considerations. Flooring and Environmental industry has responded with options of effective “no wax” floor finishes that can avoid the cost and disruption associated with the strip, wax and buff process. This can also help avoid disposal of caustic stripping chemicals resulting in a reduced environmental impact.”

8-Whole of life costing’ (WLC):
WLC includes materials and installation, level of usage, cleaning and maintenance, disposal and replacement, and warranty conditions. Reliable and precise comparisons between different finishes and flooring systems should be taken at the time of selection. In refurbishment the removal of the original finish and rectification of the substrate to the standard required for the new finish will form part of the overall cost.

Usually, WLC costs are not available for established or new products or a re‐ formulation. Considering 12 to 20-year span for performing analysis is recommended for a precise comparison between short- and long-term products such as, between carpet and rubber or sheet vinyl. In comparison to WLC data, ‘Life‐Cycle Assessment’ (LCA) data will often only cover the product cost and maintenance, and is used for establishing Environmental Profiles. WLC and LCA data should come from a reliable source such as a government or an accredited independent authority. 

Noor Shaikh, Project Manager, Johnstaff, Australia​
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