Local firm markets communication boards for hospital rooms

January 14, 2011
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Good communications in a hospital can improve health outcomes, stave off malpractice lawsuits and boost satisfaction scores.

Diversifying in the recession, a Byron Center foam fabricator developed a patient communication board to provide an easy conduit to exchange information between patients, family members, caregivers and clinicians. Several other boards were created, at customers’ requests, for other applications.

“The idea of the product is to get the patient and the family member who is there to support them and the nurses all talking to each other,” said Mike Arents, director of new business development for G&T Industries.

“The whole gem of the idea came from a nurse who remembers working with patients and trying to explain to them what life was going to be like after the particular procedure they just had done. Of course, the patient is exhausted, sedated, there’s all these family members around trying to give them moral support, and so they are not always really listening.”

Going way beyond the usual dry erase board, these modular walls units come in a variety of finishes and colors to fit in with the hospital’s décor. Customers can mix and match components to their own needs. Options include a clock, mirror, space for a computer or television screen, open and closed storage for papers, binders or a magazines, a bulletin board and, yes, a dry erase board.

“It’s a modular system, so it can have a mirror or a drop-down work surface or a sharps container (for needles, etc.). It can do a number of different things like that,” Arents said.

“When we installed products at the Cleveland Clinic, theirs had that file module,” Arents said. “They had recently hired somebody who was at the Ritz-Carlton who was responsible for customer care or guest experience … so he put together a little binder of all the amenities you can have while you are there, and that’s what they put in that little file module.”

He said the company hired Edwards/Pearsons Designs of Ottawa County to design the board and give it the look of furniture to blend in with today’s trend toward a more homelike environment in hospitals. The company used the patient-centered principles of Planetree Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit that promotes patient-centered care.

“We have other products that go into hospitals, like wall protection systems and wallcoverings,” Arents said.

After the nurse and a sales rep got to talking about the need for a custom communications board, they connected with G&T Industries CEO Rol Grit about three years ago. The product, which is assembled at G&T, started shipping to customers about two years ago.

Arents said the product is sourced from green providers, using, for example, recycled aluminum in its frame, to help hospitals meet green health care and LEED standards.

The price ranges from $300 to as much as $1,200, he said.

“More than half of our business has been specials, where people come in and they tweak it. We do a lot of custom stuff.”

G&T has sold thousands of the communication boards to customers across the country, among them Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Detroit Medical Center’s Huron Valley Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital and Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

The company also makes tempered-glass-surfaced wall boards for other applications.

Messages behind the board’s tempered glass can be customized, as well. Debra Perry-Philo, director of women’s and children’s services at Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, said the remodeled maternity floors at the Hackley campus, which opened in October, took advantage of that feature.

The new unit, which combines maternity services from the Hackley and Mercy campuses, will see 2,400 deliveries annually, Perry-Philo said. The G&T patient communication boards are used in 20 private post-partum rooms, where new mothers go after delivery.

Perry-Philo said the dry erase boards used previously had a tendency to wear out and didn’t provide a professional look. “Staff had input from the beginning as to what was going to happen with the unit, and the boards were part of those discussions,” she said.

MHP chose to use G&T’s patient communication boards for the unit’s new walls. The boards display the room number, the telephone number for the room, nurses’ names and mobile phone numbers, the baby’s name and weight and a message of congratulations.

But for cases in which the baby does not survive, the hospital uses an insertable picture of a rose as a message of condolence instead, Perry-Philo said.

G&T Industries was founded in 1954 by Robert S. Greiner and K. Kenneth Tarbell to distribute foam. Today the company, now an ESOP, is a foam fabricator for the office furniture, boating, recreational vehicle and packaging sectors. It also has a division in China that manages logistics for manufacturing and transporting hardware items, such as drawer slides, to the U.S.

It has 205,000 square feet at 1001 76th St. SW in Byron Center, including its Midwest Fulfillment Center and a transportation service. It also has facilities in Reading, Penn., and Jasper, Ind.

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