Tech Talk: Table Talk
Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
Patients today shouldn’t have to hop up on the exam table. And caregivers certainly shouldn’t have to hoist them up. Today’s exam tables are designed with enhanced accessibility and more efficient workflow. By showing their physician customers the available solutions, distributor sales reps can save more than one exam from being tabled due to injuries.
Advancements in exam table technology might best be summed up in four words: accessibility, capacity, efficiency and integration. Perhaps the biggest change in tables involves improvements to high-low tables, affording doctors and nurses barrier-free access to their patients. Years ago, 32-inch-high exam tables were standard. When 24-to-26-inch-high tables came out, it was an improvement with regard to getting patients on and off the table and affording caregivers patient accessibility during the exam. Today, however, tables can be adjusted to 18 inches high – the equivalent of chair height. Patients can get on and off the exam table more quickly and easily, facilitating a more efficient workflow.
Considering that 50 percent of people who are 65 years and older have some type of mobility issue – whether arthritis and core/joint problems or neurological issues affecting their balance – and that these patients frequently are seen in the exam room, and considering that obesity continues to be a common health issue in this country, high-low adjustable tables can be essential to the physician practice, note experts.
One of the last things a physician wants to worry about is a mobility-restricted patient having trouble mounting a table, becoming dizzy and falling off, or a nurse or other caregiver becoming injured when assisting a larger patient onto the table. Today, this needn’t be a concern. In fact, some tables can be positioned with the push of a button, permitting the physician or nurse to complete another task while the table rises or lowers for the patient to get on. And, smaller caregivers needn’t stretch or tiptoe to reach patients, just as taller caregivers needn’t bend down and stress their back.
The second greatest change in exam table technology is increased weight capacity. Years ago, exam tables offered an average weight capacity of 350-400 pounds. Today, mainstream exam tables hold between 400 and 650 pounds, eliminating a need for specialty tables to accommodate obese patients.
New to the market last spring are integrated exam tables, which read patients’ weight and capture their vital signs, including pulse, blood pressure and temperature. In addition, the tables can be connected to the physician’s electronic medical record, saving both patients and caregivers time. And, a faster, more efficient practice – where patients needn’t be led from one station to the next – likely will attract more patients. These high-tech exam tables appear to appeal especially to outpatient facilities affiliated with IDNs. These customers are tuned in to the benefits of the tables and they have the mass membership to leverage the more expensive products. Whereas a traditional exam table might cost as little as $1,500, fully integrated tables can run up to $9,000.
Working with customers
Space is important in physician practices. But, patient comfort and support are essential. Hence, exam tables today are designed around patient types – or the measure of man, as industry experts say. Proper patient positioning is central to the table design and depends largely on the needs of the patients coming through the practice. Important upholstery design features include good head and neck support, foot and leg support and support for the patient’s body core.
To determine the needs of a particular physician practice, distributor sales reps should initiate a discussion about the typical patient population seen by the practice. For instance, does the practice see mostly elderly patients with mobility and neurological health-related issues? Obese patients? Expectant mothers? Once sales reps narrow this down, they can focus on the importance of barrier-free exam tables. In fact, physicians sometimes don’t realize how essential these tables are until they reflect on the mobility issues faced by many of their patients. Ironically, many of these same practices take steps to install ramps and other features to address the needs of their wheelchair-bound or otherwise mobility-impaired patients. It makes sense that they follow through with patient accessibility in the exam room as well.
Distributor sales reps should impress on their physician customers the following advantages of barrier-free tables:
• Reduced risk of patient injury.
• Improved ergonomics and reduced risk of employee injury since the need to lift/support patients is reduced.
• Increased efficiency (when patients can get on and off the table quickly and more easily).
• Easier table access and greater comfort during the exam, which lead to increased patient satisfaction.
True, electronic medical record technology and the resulting workflow changes are driving down the need for physician practices to have as many tables as they once did. Still, small-to-midsized physician practices require at least a couple of exam rooms per physician – and every exam room requires a high-quality exam table. If sales reps equip their customers with the right solutions – and physicians stay on top of proper table maintenance and service – it’s likely their investment will comfortably last 15 years. That’s a relationship opportunity reps can’t afford to pass up.
Editor’s note: Repertoire would like to thank Midmark Corp. for its assistance with this piece.