There is a large body of evidence to suggest that while you are in hospital, the more you stay connected to the natural world - to sunlight, the rhythms of nature and pleasant views - the better your chances of a speedy recovery. Yet even today, most hospital patient rooms remain highly institutionalized environments that confine patients to an artificial and largely alien world and provide little opportunity to adapt stimulation levels to individual patient requirements. By focusing on the patient experience as well as the needs of hospital staff, Philips Research is developing innovative new ‘adaptive healing room’ concepts that could provide healing stimuli tailored to the psychological and clinical needs of individual patients.
An initial focus on stroke
Stroke has a massive impact both on people and healthcare costs. According to WHO (World Health Organization) figures, each year around 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Five million of them die and another 5 million are left permanently disabled. For those that recover, it can be a long and difficult process. Typical stroke patients spend between one and two weeks in hospital, followed by many months in a stroke rehabilitation center. The associated healthcare costs are high and the disruption to patients’ lives and those of their families is immense. These were not the only reasons that Philips decided to make stroke a focus area for its early research into adaptive healing environments. Due to the changing nature of stroke patients’ mental and physical capabilities during the course of their hospital stays, they represent an ideal cohort group for investigating how personalized adaptation of the immediate environment can aid recovery.
Sunshine and blue skies
Scientific research has shown that patients in rooms that face the sun heal faster than those in rooms that do not. Unfortunately, however, not all patient rooms have the benefit of natural light in sufficient quantities. Scientists at Philips Research have therefore developed an artificial skylight that casts a bright, sunny white light onto the patient’s bed while at the same time visually mimicking a natural blue sky, complete with subtle changes in intensity. This view of a blue sky also provides patients with another benefit that has been proved to aid recovery - the ability to look out onto a natural environment. To provide a similar effect with landscapes, Philips is also looking at the possibility of providing simulated nature views.
Maintaining circadian rhythm
In addition to providing the right kind of light and the right kind of views, Philips is investigating if the artificial skylight and nature views can be used to help maintain the patient’s circadian (day/night) rhythm. The long hours of constant-brightness artificial lighting often encountered in hospital environments may disturb this rhythm and cause sleep problems. By linking the artificial skylight and the displayed views with the room’s lighting and sound systems, Philips is experimenting with a technique that it calls ‘adaptive daily rhythm’, which is designed to adjust the room conditions to both the time of day and the hospital agenda. For example, instead of being woken up abruptly for an early morning doctor’s round or before visiting hours, patients could be woken up much more gently in the preceding period. In the evening, suitable lighting, images and sounds could help them prepare for sleep.
During the first few days after a stroke, patients are often disoriented, confused and not aware of the time. This is not only due to the stress they are under. It is often also because important parts of their brain have been affected by their stroke. It may, for example, mean that they are unable to interpret words or numbers, or the positions of the hands on a clock face. Philips Research is therefore developing an interactive orientation screen that allows information, such as the time and date, to be presented in a way that individual patients can interpret. So that patients are less confused about who is dealing with them, Philips Research is also developing a system that can automatically detect who is entering the room and display the person’s name and job function on the display. Another use for this display that Philips Research is investigating is the provision of a highly personalized ‘social connectivity’ screen on which people can post electronic get-well cards and via which patients can video-chat with friends and family.
Although there is a lot of technology behind these systems, Philips’ scientists have gone to great lengths to make it invisible to users through the use of highly intuitive user interfaces. This is not only because many stroke patients are elderly and not used to dealing with technology but also because stroke patients often have visual, auditory or cognitive impairments, depending on which parts of their brain the stroke has affected. Over-stimulating patients in the first few days after a stroke may not be a good thing. Philips is therefore developing ways of profiling the interactivity levels in its adaptive healing rooms to progressively give patients more control as and when they are capable of dealing with it.
Philips Experience Lab Hospital Area
Philips’ initial research in the Adaptive Healing Rooms project was conducted in hospitals, observing and interviewing neurologists, patients and staff to identify all of the key end-user needs. The adaptive healing room concepts that it has developed to meet these needs have now been prototyped and installed in the new Hospital Area of its Eindhoven-based Experience Lab in order to allow the involvement of as many stakeholders as possible. By allowing stakeholders to see these prototype systems in action and soliciting their opinions, Philips scientists will be able to refine its adaptive healing room concepts to the point where they can be installed in real hospitals in order to conduct clinical studies with real patients. Philips hopes to start these clinical studies in hospitals at the beginning of 2012.
+ Philips opens Hospital Research Area to develop innovative healing environments (press release)
Adaptive Healing Room