Healthcare Art: The Power of Art in Healing

With more and more studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, majority of the hospitals in the United States are giving arts a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

Aside from Hospitality sector of society—especially in Tourism, Art is presently innovating the healthcare scene. Healthcare Art is now fast becoming a trend in the western part of the world.

Since the millennium, medical facilities including hospitals, clinics, senior living residences, and dental and medical offices have started to recognize the importance of providing healing and aesthetically pleasing environments.

In 2006 a Department of Health Working Group on Arts and Health reported that the arts have ‘a clear contribution to make and offer major opportunities in the delivery of better health, wellbeing and improved experience for patients, service users and staff alike’.

In 2003, the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) determined the current level and characteristics of arts activities in healthcare (Wikoff, 2004).  The organizations have concluded that hospitals use the arts “to create a more uplifting environment” in addition to “create a welcoming atmosphere and build community relations.”

In 2008, already nearly 50% of all hospitals in the United States have arts programs. These means that hospitals, as well as the health workers are considering and discovering that art in general—including performance, music and poetry have profound healing effects. Doctors, nurses, and therapists are now working with artists and musicians to heal people of all ages with many conditions including cancer and AIDS.

Hospitals all over the world are incorporating music and art into patient care. In the distinct environment and vibes od a hospital, Arts aid in making the space contribute to a sense of place that fosters confidence, comfort, and healing. The goal of Healthcare Art is to inform a comprehensive design approach to create a healing environment.

Patterns of movement, exposure to natural light, inside-out views of natural settings, accommodations for patients and their families, colors, textures, technology, electronic media, art—all these have bigger impacts on patients, their families and health workers more than you can imagine.

“These are not just accoutrements or aesthetics anymore,” says Lisa Harris, a nephrologist and chief executive of Eskenazi Health, affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Iva Fattorini, a dermatologist and global chairwoman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Arts & Medicine Institute, says that the aim “is to take your mind away from the disease and replace the time you are losing inside hospital with some beauty.”

Meanwhile, The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, carefully incorporates Arts to foster a “healing environment,” says Chrysanthe Yates, director of its Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities in Medicine.

Patients’ reaction to Art

Anne Berry, aged 81 and a frequent visitor of hospitals for regular tests, says, “It makes me think of flying.” She visits Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital for procedures such as a mammogram and always takes time to look at the artworks. She has “white coat syndrome,” which makes her nervous about going to a doctor, but she says, “I have found the art and the environment at Eskenazi makes it less stress-inducing for me.”

Research suggests patients are positively affected by nature themes and figurative art with unambiguous, positive faces that convey a sense of security and safety.

A study back in 1993 found that patients exposed to a nature image experienced less postoperative anxiety and were more likely to take weaker painkillers than those who viewed an abstract image or no image.

A 2011 study found that nature images helped calm restless behavior and noise levels in two Texas emergency department waiting rooms.

In 2014, the Cleveland Clinic reported that patients surveyed on its contemporary collection—which includes abstract and nonrepresentational imagery by some prominent artists—reported a significant positive effect on their experience and on mood, stress, comfort and expectations.

Some patients in its survey reported they were motivated to get out of bed to view the artwork. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder reported the most significant positive improvement in mood.

Back in 2002, a study found that environmental sources play a role in overall patient satisfaction with an in-bed hospitalization. One of the respondents remarked, “It would be nice if they had more pictures.”

On the end of the spectrum, studies have also found that patients are likely to respond negatively to art with negative images or icons. Abstract art also often rates low in patient preferences compared with representational art.

A 2012 review of neuroscience studies published in the Health Environments Research & Design Journal found that images of fearful or angry faces, ambiguous subject matter, high novelty and unfamiliarity, lack of realism and sharp contours elicit negative emotional responses in the brain and suggested they should be avoided.

Art Consultation is important

 The field of healthcare offers a variety of ongoing opportunities for art consultants. The healthcare sector remains a steady and buoyant market due to population growth, population aging, and the need to update older facilities with new technology.

In hospitals, the goals of the design team are to incorporate the benefits of environmental sustainability while designing an uplifting environment conducive to healing. The artwork selected is theme based, with the most common theme being nature and its beauty.

For help with choosing art works, consultants, hospital curators and art committees turn to studies such as those gathered in the nonprofit Center for Health Design’s “Guide to Evidence-Based Art.”

Usually, art consultants working on healthcare projects are part of a design team, and a committee of decision makers such as the project manager, architect, interior designer, facilities manager, and administrators makes art selections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *