Author: Jason Donaghue
A key aim of the health service is to look after people who are usually at their most vulnerable, which makes it essential to provide the correct facilities for both users of the services and staff alike. With increased pressure and demand on the health service, the problem of limited space and reducing admission time is real. Inevitably with hospital admissions there will be a period of recovery time until patients are ready for discharge, but how can lighting speed up recovery and shorten hospital stay time?

The role of lighting in healthcare is not to go unmissed. Lighting can create a nurturing atmosphere, enhancing care, whilst also reducing costs at the same time. In a healthcare environment, arguably the recovery of patients should be the upmost priority. Lighting can have a key impact in reducing the time it takes for patients to return to ‘normal’ health. Simulating natural daylight conditions help to support patient mood, sleep and recovery. Having the right light with the right level of control can help synchronise and work in harmony with biological rhythms, adding to the comfort, experience and wellbeing of both patients and staff.

In patient rooms, where light can impact recovery time the most, the length of stay can vary from a few hours visit to possibly a stay of many months. The right lights helps contribute towards providing a homely feel and making patients feel at ease. Users of the space can vary from the very young to the very old, who have differing needs, for example, eyesight deteriorates with age and sensitivity to glare increases. There may also be varying degrees of physical and mental conditions. As a result, complete flexibility from the lighting is essential to meet each patients’ needs and to respond to these altered requirements. With tailored personal lighting, patients can create a lighting scene that suits their needs, helping to keep them calm and delivering a pleasant ambience during their stay. The option to change colour temperature and intensity, either through preference or circadian rhythm controls, gives further comfort to patients who may be staying longer. Furthermore, the use of ambient lighting can create a relaxing atmosphere in areas such as operating theatres and patient wards, all of which aid in speeding up recovering time. With shorter hospital stays, the health service can in turn, save costs.

Operating theatres are considered to have the most complex lighting control needs. Due to the tasks conducted in these spaces, it’s important that staff are able to control the lights to suit their specific requirements. Clinical staff need different lighting conditions in order to perform as effectively as possible when carrying out tasks that require high levels of concentration. The ability to control the colour and intensity of light is crucial, not only to make the right decisions, but also to adjust the lighting conditions based on the patients needs. Different skin tones for example may require different light levels to ensure optimum visibility. Colour and colour rendering has an effect in certain situations such as surgery, as each case is different and depends on the patient, the operation and the examiner.

Lighting and control in healthcare is not as simple as keeping the space lit. It requires a detailed solution, that benefits all possible users, while supporting the sustainability of the building. Very often it is useful to understand what the facility requires in terms of functionality and how much control can be given. Hospitals require lighting on a 24/7 basis. With such big facilities, the use of automatic lighting in areas such as car parks, entrance areas, corridors and stairwells help to reduce energy usage by switching lighting or dimming lighting automatically.

To conclude, it is clear that the lighting demands in healthcare are rather complex as a range of requirements need to be taken into consideration if the lighting is able to cater to the needs of different individuals, each with differing circumstances. The primary purpose of the lighting should be to provide a positive experience that improves patient stay, helping them to feel secure and at home, which in turn helps to aid recovery. The emphasis should be on using light in the right way to achieve an optimum lighting environment that best uses daylight and intelligent lighting controls to enhance wellbeing, whilst at the same time, conserving energy.