Textiles can play a key role in creating a healing environment both aesthetically and acoustically within healthcare facilities. Incorporating reusable woven curtains provides multiple benefits, it improves patient comfort, reduces costs, decreases waste and provides a more sustainable option to single-use disposable curtains in a healthcare environment.
Carol Debono, a textile designer with Instyle, spoke to several leading hospitals during the development of the company’s comprehensive healthcare range. “There were mixed views on the right approach to take, either reusable or disposable curtains” says Debono.
“The increase in use of disposable curtains is largely due to concerns over infection control. However an infection control advantage would apply only to curtains that are changed immediately after every patient, particularly in high risk areas such as an operating and emergency rooms. Most disposable curtains are changed every six months or so, therefore this perceived benefit over reusable curtains does not eventuate in practice.”
Most disposable curtain suppliers claim that the disposable approach is more cost effective. Debono says “Disposable curtains may appear to offer an initial upfront cost saving, however there is the ongoing, and potentially rising, cost of purchasing curtains for a single use and their associated disposal costs. With reusable curtains, there is a higher upfront cost of the curtain and laundering costs, however this cost is to be amortised over many years of its performance life.”
The wider health benefits of using design-driven soft furnishings are not so easy to measure. Reusable curtains can play an important part in the healing process where colours and designs can be selected or customised to suit individual facilities and woven locally in Australia. Instyle has designed custom reusable curtains for the likes of Royal North Shore Hospital, Austin Hospital, Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Greenslopes Private Hospital.
The research behind evidence-based design explores the real benefits of healthcare facilities that are designed around patient, family and staff needs and preferences. Healthcare facilities designed in a less clinical way have better patient outcomes and recovery times, thereby reducing the patient’s length of stay. Many facilities are shifting from a system that focuses on disease-based care to one that recognises the importance that wellbeing of mind, body and spirit plays in health.
“Incorporating themes with natural elements into curtain designs is a great way to help promote patient healing. Research shows that biophilic references are a positive therapeutic distraction and are restorative” says Debono. “The physical environment is an important factor to how a patient perceives their quality of care and their overall satisfaction, which contributes to a positive state of mind.”
The increased use of disposable curtains has led to an increase in hospital waste, with most ending up as general waste or clinical waste. Many healthcare facilities are recognising that by increasing their use of reusable textiles they can minimise waste and its associated disposal costs. Reusable textiles are an environmentally preferable choice over single-use disposable curtains.