Art in Healthcare

The direct connection of Arts and the Healthcare industry has long been established and explored through studies and actual implementation of its findings.

Today, Arts in Healthcare is a diverse, multidisciplinary field dedicated to uplifting and taking the healthcare experience to the next level by connecting people through art and its benefits to patients, their families and the health workers all together.

This rapidly growing trend integrates the arts—be it visual design, multimedia and performance, into a wide variety of healthcare as a setting for therapy, education and expression.

Hospitals are no longer a workplace for clinicians, but also a playground for artists as the medical community recognize art as an important and integral component of healthcare and healing.

The Importance of Arts in the Health Sector

Art is beneficial to every person’s mental health, patient or not. Studies found a direct and strong showing link between the content of images that art offers and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety. Many researches have demonstrated the benefits of the arts in healthcare in hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, hospices, and other locations within the community.

Arts in healthcare programs and creative arts therapies have been applied to a vast array of health issues, including:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism and overall mental health
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Neurological disorders and brain injuries
  • Premature infant births
  • Physical disabilities

Overall, art is beneficial to a person’s overall health condition, including medication outcomes, treatment compliance and quality of life.

Evidence-Based Design

In 1984, Dr. Roger Ulrich has published a paper exploring the idea of how art helps patients’ recovery. He established and coined the term Evidence-Based Design, which was supported by observations and data recorded. He closely studied the recovery of patients situated in rooms with a window, and why they needed and were required less pain medication and recovered faster than patients staying in a room without windows.

Since then, the field of Evidence-Based Design had wider horizons and has inspired more studies to further strengthen Dr. Ulrich’s hypothesis. Later on, studies focused on how art in hospital rooms and corridors promoted faster healing, which relieved patients’ stress and pain.

The concept of using the arts in healing has gained more attention and more articles and reviews about the trend were published in journals and academic periodicals. Many of which explored the effects of arts when patients and their families, as well as health workers were exposed to different art media.

How Art Helps Patients:

The primary beneficiaries of Art in Healthcare are the patients themselves. Arts benefit them by aiding in their physical, mental, and emotional recovery, as well as relieving their anxiety and decreasing their perception of pain.

In a mostly intimidating and cold atmosphere and environment, arts can serve as a therapeutic and healing tool, reducing the loneliness and providing opportunities for self-expression.

How Art Helps their Families and the Health Workers:

Caregivers—both professionals and not (family and friends) are experiencing stress and anxiety in hospitals and other health facilities too. Everyday health workers face realities of human suffering, illnesses, and death. Arts allow them to have a sanctuary of calmness and relief, as well as a platform for them to release their emotions and stress.

At the same time, arts can act as a new opportunity for medical professionals to improve diagnostic and communication skills, which can be helpful in communicating health and recovery information.

How Art Improves the Hospital Setting:

Hospitals are often seen and portrayed as a cold place where science dominates. Arts create a safer, more supportive and home-y ambiance to these healthcare facilities that can affect the general setting for patients and workers, the same.

From the mere architectural design to art hung on the walls, from windows to landscaping and healing gardens, the physical environment was proven to have a significant impact on reducing patient and caregiver stress, improving health outcomes, enhancing patient safety and overall quality of care, and reducing costs. At the same time, it boosts the productivity of healthcare providers, increasing effectiveness and reducing errors.

Forms of Arts in Healthcare

Site-Specific Art

One of the first collaboration of art and healing was in the form of visual medium, through site-specific art.

The positive effect that bringing the visual arts into a healthcare environment had on patients’ health and wellbeing. This is popular today more than ever, as more and more hospitals allocate more budget and pay more attention on their hospitals interior, layout, design and art collection.

Permanent art displays are now a trend in hospitals around the globe. More and more philanthropists are also providing enough budget to support the growing art industry in the healthcare sector.

Art consultants are also commissioned to help in choosing the right and apt art works for the hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Art Therapy Sessions

Performing Arts has also penetrated the industry of healthcare. Many hospitals today have incorporated art programs as part of the patients’ therapy sessions. Hospitals are now also venues for dance, music, literature and other kinds of performances.

As a field of study, Art Therapy originated in the late nineteenth century as psychologists explored the connection between arts and a person’s mental and emotional health. In the 1930s, Art has been used in “milieu therapy”, which encouraged patients to enjoy and create art as a part of healthy self-expression. More recently, the practice expanded from mental health to physical health.

Today, a report Society for Arts in Healthcare says that close to half of hospitals have arts programs, which include art therapy classes and musical performances in 2009.

Art Classes and Sessions

Healthcare facilities are now becoming spaces for patients to create art themselves. Patients are encouraged to engage in painting, drawing, photography and pottery sessions among other forms of art.

Researchers have noted that their respondents expressed a positive attitude and view regarding art. They said that the activity ‘filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness’. Medical results also show that patients who are actively participating in art activities have reductions in stress and anxiety, distress and negative emotions. On the other hand, it noted to have increases in positive emotions and improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks.