Providing chemotherapy in most comfortable setting

Receiving chemotherapy by intravenous infusion can take between four and eight hours.

That’s a long time to be sitting in a chair, not to mention the psychological aspect, so Dr. Mark Krasna, medical director of the Cancer Institute at St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, set out to find a chair that was both comfortable and comforting.

The newly built Cancer Institute is designed so that patients undergoing chemotherapy face an airy, light-filled atrium with a garden “so they no longer feel like they’re in a small cubicle or closet,” Dr. Krasna said.

But there was still the matter of what to sit in. Patients were using a garden-variety hospital chair, which was OK, but Dr. Krasna felt he could do better.

Younger patients, noted Dr. Krasna, wanted to work, to distract themselves from the fact that they were having chemotherapy.

He explored home theater-type chairs, and he even contacted the airlines, but he couldn’t quite find what he had in mind.

Then Michael Erickson, assistant vice president for facilities design and construction at St. Joseph, found a chair while shopping at Jarrettsville Furniture that had been built by a local Parkville man. He contacted the builder, who agreed to build a prototype to the specifications provided by Dr. Krasna and his staff.

The comfortable chair, which can recline to a totally flat position, has a leather-like finish that can be completely cleaned. It has a roll-around tray to make a comfortable work or eating space. The entire Cancer Institute is wireless, so the tray is perfect for a laptop.

If the patient just wants to relax, one arm has an iPod dock. Patients, who all get headphones, can listen to music or bring their own iPod.

“But it doesn’t interfere with the other patients around you, which is important,” Dr. Krasna said.

The other armrest has a built-in DVD player, and electrical outlets are hidden under the chair, allowing the IV to be plugged into the back of the chair.

Dr. Krasna said a patent is pending for the chair, called the CHI chair, named for Catholic Health Initiatives. Each chair costs about $8,000, and the hospital will have 13 of them; 12 in a standard size and one that can accommodate a morbidly obese patient.

The chair is just one part of the Cancer Institute’s patient-centered design.

“The goal is to make you feel as comfortable as possible,” Dr. Krasna said.

The prototype was tested on patients and earned glowing reviews.

“Everybody who’s sat in it loves it,” Dr. Krasna said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.