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Lighting in Healthcare Spaces

Lighting in Healthcare Spaces

The SimTigrate Design Lab has conducted several projects surrounding sleep and other impacts of light in healthcare spaces. Our early work characterized the functions lighting needs to perform in an in-patient environment to support quality care delivery. One finding has been that the current design of lighting in these environments is insufficient in achieving these functions.

Recent improved understanding of the physiology of the eye has created new opportunities to use lighting to impact various aspects of daily life, including alertness and mood. Lighting technology itself also has advanced: we now have access to LED lights that can be tuned and dimmed to specific color temperatures. These factors provide promising potential impacts in healthcare environments.

Sleep Disruption as an Avoidable Patient Harm

This project began as a study in collaboration with healthcare manufacturer Hillrom to examine the impact of inpatient environments on sleep. Using mind maps and literature reviews, SimTigrate studied the different ways sleep is disrupted, considering both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, to answer the straightforward question: Does sleep disruption matter? We discovered that sleep disruption is a significant enough problem that it needs to be addressed in healthcare settings, as it contributes to several physiological outcomes, including length of stay, level of pain, and medication costs. We also found that although there are other significant drivers, lighting affects sleep in significant ways.

Pacific Northwest National Lab Studies

Excited by our sleep disruption project findings, the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) reached out to collaborate on a lighting project. Together, we are researching potential impacts that new tunable, dimmable LED lighting technology can have on alertness, mood and sleep.

This has led to a series of studies conducted with PNNL focused on nurses’ perceptions of different lighting conditions while simulating various nursing activities. The paper on these findings is forthcoming. A second study was conducted focusing on the acceptability of these new lighting technologies to patients, studying the effects of tunable, dimmable lighting on the patient experience. PNNL is providing expertise about the impact of such lighting on people with mild cognitive impairment participating in the Cognitive Empowerment Program.

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