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The Ins and Outs of Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment in the Health Care Setting

08/27/19

By:

Charles Messamore, Senior Consulting Director, Facilities, Capital and Construction Solutions

Is your organization planning a renovation or building a new facility? Be prepared with a plan (and a budget) for when the dust settles and interior design begins. As new construction and renovation projects near completion, furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) become vitally important to the look, feel and design of the space that has been altered, but FF&E is rarely part of the agreement between the general contractor and hospital. That means organizations, with support from their architect, ultimately have responsibility and control over the specific types of FF&E that are acquired.

To help hospitals make more informed decisions and better manage the FF&E acquisition process, following are some key steps that will provide for smoother transactions and more cost effective outcomes.

Define category types

As wants and needs start to materialize, it’s critical to understand what specific determinations have been made – or need to be made – by category and sub-category throughout the organization. An example might be Furniture/Seating, Seating/Public Areas or Seating/Task Chairs. First, you want to define what’s considered furniture, what’s considered a fixture and what’s classified as equipment. For example, is an over-the-bed table considered a piece of equipment or is it furniture? Or, should exam stools be included in the larger seating sub-category or be included in the patient room furniture category? 

If you ask a nurse or CNO they’ll likely say the table is equipment and the exam room stool should be considered as part of the patient room package. If you ask an interior designer, their answer will probably be that the table is a piece of furniture but that the stool wouldn’t be categorized as part of patient room furniture. Ask an equipment planner and their opinion may differ as well.

Perhaps a more obvious example of furniture is seating. As we know, there are many different types of chairs that are used or required in a hospital, e.g., task chairs, patient room chairs and bariatric chairs. But in almost every situation outside the hospital these would not be considered equipment or fixtures. It’s important to distinguish the categories to streamline budgeting and procurement and to ensure that purchases are aligned with organizational values.

Develop standards

Once initial categories have been defined, the next important step is to develop standards. While it’s simple to characterize this step as a major goal for your organization, developing standards is not easy – it can be a stressful and time-consuming. But once in place, process improvements can occur, optimal pricing can be realized, product delivery will start and the identity of the health care system will begin to take shape. As the standardization process is followed, the decision about how they’re to be implemented is also important. For example, depending on the category, should the standard be driven by application, by manufacturer or both?

Lastly, consideration should be given to potential FF&E with regard to its impact on the environment and its life expectancy within a particular location or organization. These are critical to patient satisfaction scores and have possible reimbursement implications. 

Secure user input and leadership support

It’s an absolute must – whether they’re called committees, councils or cohorts – that leadership request and receive input from the end users who are truly active participants within the entire process. Without buy-in from the end users (or representatives thereof), the definitions and standards to be developed won’t provide the necessary value. Perhaps even more importantly, support, mandates and participation from executive-level leadership can provide the necessary impetus within the organization to help ensure acceptance and compliance of standards.

Use your GPO and its contracted partners

Today, with the health care industry changing almost by the minute, group purchasing organizations must carry a strong contract portfolio to support their clients. When a health system is truly committed to implementing standards, these contracts and the relationships that are fostered serve as the foundation by providing various advantageous pricing structures that revolve around volume, project/capital purchases and, most importantly, commitments to standards.

Learn more about how Vizient experts in FF&E can help you through the ins and outs of your organization’s construction or renovation project. 

About the author. With nearly 10 years of experience in health care, Charlie Messamore currently serves as a senior consulting director on the Vizient Facilities, Capital and Construction team. Prior to this role he spent time as service line director with a specific focus on the FF&E category. He also played a key role in the development and expansion of the facilities and construction contract portfolio. Before his time in health care, Messamore spent more than 14 years in the MRO industry. He is also an active member of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE). 

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