The built environment can have a positive effect on the overall state of a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Nowhere is this more important than in a healthcare facility. As Florence Nightingale noted in the 19th century, the physical environment of a medical facility can affect the psychological wellbeing and behaviors of every kind of building user—from patients and their visitors to medical staff.
Healthcare lighting needs to meet many form-and-function criteria: symbiotic with the overall design, advanced technology that provides multiple precise distribution options to deliver the many layers of light required in healthcare environments, lighting that promotes circadian entrainment, glare-free comfortable lighting that supports the visual tasks of staff while enhancing the overall wellbeing of patients, and ease of maintenance to withstand harsh cleaning protocols necessary to minimize risk of hospital-acquired infections.
A growing understanding of the effects of light on human biology, as well as the importance of light for helping to create pleasant, non-institutional environments, has created a desire for hospital lighting systems to provide flexibility in spectral output and control. With a focus on both patient and staff wellness, the AEC industry and healthcare facility managers are looking for thoughtfully configured lighting that balances both visual and circadian needs, and promotes healing outcomes.
Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the impact of hospital design on clinical outcomes. Evidence shows that design plays a significant role: Improved physical settings can be an important tool in making hospitals safer, more conducive to healing, and more comfortable places to work. To that end, more institutional lighting approaches of the past are being replaced because luminaires are designed to meet both form and function, such as architecturally integrated LED fixtures that provide soft, indirect light.
Circadian Rhythm and Improved Patient Outcomes
Studies on the body’s circadian rhythm, its relationship to overall health and how it is influenced by light have informed healthcare lighting design. Unfortunately, many hospitals are typically not bright enough during the day or dark enough during the night to entrain the body’s natural pattern. One way to achieve this is through tunable white lighting.
Research shows that a certain amount of exposure to light in the blue spectrum can alter the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps stabilize and control the body’s sleep and wake cycles. Limiting exposure to light at night, especially blue light, may increase melatonin production, which facilitates sleep. Thoughtfully configured lighting for patient rooms that balances both visual and circadian needs, as well as links to nature, promotes healing outcomes. Circadian lighting is not about a single luminaire, or an isolated area; it considers the lighted environment as a whole.
Reducing Staff Errors
The work environment for nurses and physicians in hospitals is stressful. They are required to perform a range of complex tasks—charting, filling prescriptions, administering medication, and performing other critical patient-care tasks. Nurses’ station lighting should enhance effectiveness, not inhibit it. Based on studies that cite adequate lighting in medication areas as one of the top environmental solutions for avoiding errors, innovative lighting approaches and technologies should be an important consideration during new construction or renovation.
Infection Control and Easier Maintenance
In healthcare environments, it’s critical to meet stringent infection control standards while being easy to maintain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every 25 U.S. hospital patients contracts an infection in a health care setting. One way to reduce Healthcare-Acquired Infection is to ensure that pathogens can’t get into hard-to-reach lighting fixtures. Installing luminaires designed with materials and finishes, such as an antimicrobial coating, to withstand hospital cleaning protocols, restricts the flow of pathogens, ensures they can be easily cleaned without damage, and reduces the ability of pathogens to multiply in the event they aren’t cleaned.
To reduce costs and prolong luminaire systems’ sustainability, facility workers need easy access to drivers and components. Luminaires with room-side access and toolless driver removal make for easy replacement.
Intrigued to learn how revolutionary new lighting products can meet aesthetic and design goals, improve patient outcomes, reduce staff errors and control infection? Get more information at BalancedCare by Axis Lighting.
 Anjali Joseph, Ph.D., “Impact of Light on Outcomes in Healthcare Settings,” The Center for Health Design, 2006; updated 2014.