Virtual Reality – the future that is already on our doorstep. How can VR make a difference to the patient experience?
The benefits VR will bring to some care settings are phenomenal. Whilst there are (currently) limitations to its uses for patients (predominantly around short term or intermittan use), yet agin, we witness that the impact of what we see on how we feel, is a powerful asset to be harvested. If we can generate any sense of joy, calm or peace through the supply of a visual experience, we can truly benefit the care recipients’ well being, and greatly improve the overall patient experience.
The talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee (founder and author of The Aesthetics of Joy), is a must see for each and every one of us, no matter what our situation in life (video link is below). Her topic, “joy”, is a prime example of how what we see, literally makes us feel and what we feel has an incredible impact on our overall well being, either in the moment or longer term.
Ingrid comments in the talk, that the environments we often live in, are literally “killing us”. Its a pretty bold statement but shows if nothing else, how incredibly vital it is that we understand how to deliver a visual experience that includes and emboldens us rather than isolates and leaves us vulnerable.
The approach of bringing any form of colour into an environment should be done with purpose and to do that, a deep understanding of the way in which what we see, makes us feel. Just for a moment, consider Ingrid’s salient observation of one word, commonly used but do we really “get” the meaning when we use it?
Aesthetics – originating from the Greek word “Aisthanomai”
Brett shared his story during a survey he was taking for me.
“The nurses did a fantastic job in looking after us but the environment let us down” – “Sitting in those chairs with nothing but one TV to look at between us all – It was a horrible experience.”
Brett is not alone. Talking with him and his wife about their experience recently it was only a couple of days later I heard a caller saying exactly the same thing (on the local radio station). That caller is now helping to raise funds to put visual art in that particular care setting so that others can have a better experience in future.
Clearly, our carers are more than keeping up their end of the deal, but in many cases, the environment they provide that care in, lets the experience down.
Why are we subjecting people to unnecessary trauma when we can do so much to reduce it?
To test the waters of existing research findings as well as our own hypotheses, we ran our first survey recently. To keep things simple, we asked people to have a careful look at 5 images and let us know how, or even if, each image made them feel. We asked them only to consider their feelings and not how much they liked or did not like each image.
Five images were presented. A forest scene, a red dawn ocean image, an urban scene, an abstract image and finally a blue dawn lake scene with hills in the background.
32 people undertook the survey. Our objective was to simply gauge emotive responses and to determine if there was a clear pattern in the responses. Participants were also asked for their thoughts on which image they would prefer to be given to look at in a care setting.
The results were clear cut overall.
However, there were also some interesting additional perspectives recorded which demonstrates how precarious, image selection can be, when choosing imagery to be displayed “with purpose”. In the care setting case, it is usually in an effort to reduce anxiety and increase a state of calm. Understanding how a given image is most likely to impact the viewer’s state of mind is clearly an advantage in providing the best possible value from the investment by providing a better patient experience.
Key data results
62% of respondents chose the forest scene as the image that was their preferred image choice to display in a care setting, and also brought them the greatest sense of peace (72% of respondents stating this emotional response).
26% chose the blue lake with hills scene to display in a care setting, and also brought them the greatest sense of calm (71%)
The abstract image on the other hand had zero votes to be displayed in a care setting and was emotionally challenging with 48% of respondents saying the image made them feel agitated or simply nothing at all.
The urban scene gained 6% of votes for displaying in a care setting and scored 32% “excited” and 26% “agitated” on the emotive side. Several additional comments noting a sense of feeling closed in or busy, one even citing the potential for suicidal thoughts.
Finally, the red dawn ocean scene. This image generated the most variation in responses. It received 6% of the votes to be displayed. The emotional responses of note were: calm 28% – peaceful 37% – happy 28% and various other terms noted a sense of excitement or invigoration.
Take from this what you will. It’s hardly a scientific mechanism but it should at the very least make us all sit up and understand that there is much to consider when determining the content of visual imagery placed in care settings if we really want to target the well-being of the patient, and also give them the very best experience we can when in a care setting. A place they are most likely quite anxious about being in.
We are undertaking further image surveys (one can never stop learning). Talking to care recipients from all forms of care settings is vital in any care giving practice. It is no different for us in the service we provide to bring greater benefits to those patients, easing their minds whilst in care settings.
Have you considered “how” the visual art you present to your patients, really makes them feel?
If you are interested in this topic, please sign up for our newsletter
We are very fortunate with the quality of clinical treatment facilities and services here in Australia. Treatment of any sort is widely acknowledged as one of the more stressful times of life and those treatments are focussed on the direct approach relative to the symptoms. There is growing support and evidence, that modern treatment needs to more holistically treat the person, including the state of mind or “spirit”.
The conversation is a global one and a far-reaching movement involving all care settings. The undertaking of required research, will compliment significant existing research into the connection between visual arts and well-being, completing a much-needed understanding of how best to benefit care recipients with visual art, beyond the primary, and usually somatic, symptoms.
Research in Scandinavia has been world leading in recent years. For example in Denmark, The KØS Museum of Art in Public Spaces recently ran a research based seminar “What Does Art Do in Hospitals”. The KØS curator (Lene Bøgh Rønberg) and her team joined forces with sociologist Annete Stenslund to try and understand some of the rationales that govern existing principles and practices of hospital art.
Structuring the exhibition around 5 themes – colours, views of nature, travel and memory, identification and participation, and life and death, the team investigated the place and impact of art in hospitals and its purported role in supporting a healing process and beyond.
The findings from this seminar will compliment three years of research already undertaken, and hopefully shed yet more light on how we can bring even better benefit to care settings in selecting visual arts that add genuine benefit to the patient experience.
Much of modern research undertaken, is inspired by work undertaken by Roger S Ulrich in the early 1980’s. In particular his study “View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery” has long been seen as a landmark contribution to further research into visual art and well-being. In a recent interview he was asked “What was the impact of that study on your career?” to which he responded:
“One of the gratifying things about the study is that in recent years, several medical researchers working independently have reproduced the main results. In other words, the findings hold up when tested by others. There is quite an active area of medical research today that uses nature distraction to reduce pain. Most of these studies are rigorous; virtually all have reported significant pain-reduction effects; and all cite the window view study as a starting point.” (to read the full interview click here)
Roger Ulrich’s studies have stood the test of time but in 35 years we have not significantly advanced on those findings.
The time is now, and the care community is really starting to show an understanding for the need to place value in determining how best to apply visual art to the advantage of the patient well-being and improved experience.
How would you know if the art in your care setting is providing maximum benefit towards improving the patient experience?
If you are interested in this topic, please sign up for our newsletter:
Hospitals are turning to art as part of a broader push to create a healing environment as studies show that visual art can help reduce stress for patients and increase satisfaction with care. Dr. Iva Fattorini and Jennifer Finkel, who are both involved with art at the Cleveland Clinic, discuss on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Cleveland Clinic
In care settings the world over, people put their well-being in the hands of others, often exposing themselves to vulnerability and distress.
In recent times, many care settings have embraced visual art into their environments, usually with a view to improving the general aesthetics of that space. There is currently, limited evidence to support more purposeful selections with the explicit view of benefitting the emotional (and ultimately physical) well-being of those receiving care. Being able to do so, would bring a host of connected benefits to care receivers, their care providers and the settings they work within.
“Easing the mind of people in care settings.”
There is a global movement building in the care industry, working to better understand the significant benefits to patient comfort that can be realised through visual arts. As a witness to care recipients, this has become a very personal mission.
Born into the world of hospitality, where caring for people was always at the heart of my parent’s small hotel in the Channel Islands (UK) and then marrying a nurse, my own appreciation for the need for care at the next level was given new meaning. Through a photographic eye, I saw what carers and patients alike, already knew: that visual art stimuli contributed to patient well-being, and the broader patient experience as a result.
I believe we all instinctively know many of the answers. The problem is, that we really don’t have enough evidence to allow care setting providers to look beyond pure aesthetics when making decisions about visual art within their respective settings. The decisions therefor become somewhat personal, if not subjective. The question is:
How do I spend money that hits the mark?
• If this topic is of interest to you, you might like to sign up for our newsletter
• If you know anyone else who may be interested in this topic, please share the article.