Observing the evolving needs within healthcare systems to adapt to shifting patient populations and clinical requirements, whether at a single location or across multiple sites, Brewer Company (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) saw an opportunity for versatility in medical equipment.

Its Versa Exam Table is designed to deliver on that front with an adaptable fixed-height design that can smoothly transition between pediatric and adult configurations. At the 2023 Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, Nightingale Awards jurors lauded the product for solving a multitude of needs from workflow to patient assistance. The exam table earned two awards in total, including Gold in the Furniture: Clinician Support category and the sought-after Best of Competition prize.

Updating the healthcare exam table

Specifically, the table features a fixed steel base with interchangeable adult and pediatric top configurations, allowing healthcare systems to easily adapt to different patient populations, medical specialties, or healthcare settings as organizations undertake renovations or merge locations as part of system integrations.

The entire changeover process can be completed in less than 10 minutes per table, minimizing downtime and maximizing clinical efficiency. Additionally, with a 500-pound weight capacity, the design ensures the exam table can accommodate a diverse patient demographic, while thoughtfully placed handrails and storage drawers address patient safety and staff efficiency needs.

“Excellent modifications to the standard exam table,” one juror noted. “Safety features of the handrails are impressive and easy to use. Drawers are thoughtful and well-intended to meet the needs of clinicians. Much-needed innovations.”

Healthcare Design spoke with David Bussa, president, and Mary Adkinson, director of product development, at Brewer Company, about the table’s design features and how they benefit patients and staff.

Healthcare Design: What clinical and operational issue were you trying to solve with this product?

David Bussa

David Bussa (Headshot credit: Brewer Company)

David Bussa: Our aim was to tackle the increasing challenges in patient mobility and safety, which is particularly vital as our population ages and mobility issues become more prevalent.

For example, the table’s patient assistance handles are a direct response to aiding those with mobility challenges, such as geriatric patients. These handles not only provide support but also enhance safety by rotating backward 180 degrees, thereby creating a cradling effect that keeps the patient safely positioned during the examination.

Furthermore, in the realm of pediatric care, we aimed to cater to the full spectrum of patients, from newborns to adolescents. The Versa Exam Table is uniquely designed with features such as sloped and cushioned baby cradle edges, which ensure younger children are safely secured during exams. The cradle is wide and robust enough to comfortably accommodate adolescents. This dual functionality ensures the table can adapt to the diverse needs of the pediatric population.

How does the exam table aim to improve the patient experience?

Bussa: We recognize the profound moments that unfold on an exam table, where patients may receive life-altering news. The ambiance of the patient care environment plays a crucial role in these interactions. Our goal was to transform the exam table from a mere clinical fixture into a welcoming, comfortable piece of furniture.

By choosing neutral, soft tones for the base and tops and focusing on a design that is both inviting and comfortable, we sought to move away from the traditional, cold, and institutional feel of medical equipment. It’s about offering a supportive space for patients during some of the most significant moments of their lives, thereby aiding healthcare providers in delivering compassionate care every day.

What challenges does this table’s adaptability help address in the clinical environment?

Bussa: Healthcare operators are continually seeking to balance the demand for high-quality equipment with the need to maximize their investments.

The Versa Exam Table meets critical clinical needs by offering unparalleled flexibility to accommodate changing patient populations, clinical specialties, and varying healthcare settings. Instead of procuring an entirely new examination table when clinical needs change, Versa offers a much more economical solution by simply swapping the upholstered top or adding necessary accessories to their existing Versa table.

Whether it’s adapting to the evolving needs of different medical specialties, integrating into new acquisitions, navigating through renovations, or setting up new clinical environments, the Versa’s design ensures that healthcare providers can efficiently keep pace with these changes.

Healthcare operators are continually seeking to balance the demand for high-quality equipment with the need to maximize their investments.

What are some of the ergonomic features of the exam table?

Mary Adkinson

Mary Adkinson (Headshot credit: Brewer Company)

Mary Adkinson: In our journey to create the Versa Exam Table, the Brewer team engaged in hundreds of discussions with healthcare providers, patients, and designers to craft an exam table that prioritizes safety, efficiency, and a seamless exam experience.

One of our key ergonomic advancements is the strategically designed storage drawer. This higher location significantly reduces the need for bending and reaching, allowing staff to access supplies more quickly and easily, thereby enhancing their workflow.

Additionally, the ergonomically designed assist handles provide secure and stable support for patient transfers onto the table, with grip points optimized for comfort and safety. These handles also rotate 180 degrees to provide a cradle effect when the patient is lying on the table.

Clinicians have expressed their appreciation for these ergonomic improvements, noting that the features not only save time but also contribute to their own health and well-being, which allows them to stay focused on delivering quality patient care.

How is the Versa Exam Table designed to support the infection control needs of healthcare spaces?

Adkinson: The table is crafted with carefully selected surfaces and finishes that balance the need for grip and stability while being exceptionally easy to disinfect and clean.

Key to its design is the base cabinet, which includes a streamlined storage drawer and panels that are intentionally smooth with minimal ridges and grooves, thereby reducing the potential for infectious materials to accumulate. We’ve also minimized the use of porous surfaces, which are more prone to harboring pathogens.

Additionally, the Versa’s step is engineered as one piece with a surface that features a built-in grippy texture. Unlike other exam tables that use stickers which can peel and trap dirt over time, the Versa step construction is engineered for both safety and ease of cleaning, aligning perfectly with the hygiene standards of healthcare environments.

What are some of the environmental features of the line?

Adkinson: The tabletop is offered in a range of upholstery materials, including options that are free from polyvinyl chloride and phthalates, catering to environmentally conscious choices without compromising on quality.

Additionally, the Versa Exam Table adheres to stringent environmental standards and is compliant with a variety of programs such as the California Air Resources Board’s Phase 2, Toxic Substances Control Act Title VI, and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive.

Furthermore, the Versa Exam Table is made in the USA, with nearly all its components sourced from the Midwest. The table’s development, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, was a period marked by significant supply chain challenges.

This situation underscored the importance of our dedication to domestic and local sourcing, a practice that not only supports local economies but also ensures the reliability and quality of our products.

What void does the Versa Exam Table help fill in the healthcare design industry?

Bussa: The fixed-height exam table space has been ready for a significant upgrade for quite some time. Our insights, gathered from extensive feedback from hundreds of clinicians, facility planners, and healthcare architects, highlighted a clear demand for more innovative solutions.

Recognizing this, the Versa Exam Table is designed to move beyond the traditional institutional look and feel of exam tables as well as prioritize patient and clinician safety, improve cleanability, and address ergonomics.

Moreover, understanding the diverse needs across various patient demographics and clinical specialties, we emphasized adaptability and customization in our design approach.

For additional Nightingale Awards content, check out “2023 Nightingale Product Awards: Winners Slideshow” and “What Product Trends Are Top Of Mind In Healthcare?

Anne DiNardo is editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at anne.dinardo@emeraldx.com.

For more on the 2023 Nightingale Awards, check out Healthcare Design’s January/February 2024 issue.