THE INTERSECTION OF LIGHTING + HEALTH CARE

Chris Bailey, Director, Business Development and Product Innovation for Hubbell Lighting, has more than a decade of experience in the lighting industry. As the former Director of the Lighting Solutions Center for Hubbell Lighting, Bailey is committed to using his unique skill set of technical abilities and market wisdom to educate professionals worldwide on the fast-changing dynamics of the lighting industry. 

According to the US DOE’s Energy Information Administration, healthcare facilities account for 7% of electricity use by all commercial and institutional buildings. Additionally, lighting equipment represents as much as 42% of total electricity used in health care facilities. Despite the extraordinary costs associated with lighting systems, health care applications provide a unique set of challenges and opportunities, which given the lack of research funding, leaves a large separation between research and applied design. Despite the obvious benefits and in many cases unique, lighting practices implemented by health care providers and facility managers, these efforts and their related benefits largely go unmeasured. This has resulted in the general deficiency of quantified benefits of “good lighting” and limited design guidance with respect to both common and specialized health care environments.

For patient and health care professionals alike, patient experience, observation accuracy, procedure success, patient recovery and patient safety (slips, trips and falls, etc.) are of the utmost concern. Given the range in age of patients (newborn to geriatric), varying degree of patient mobility and duration of treatment and observation, lighting requirements vary greatly.

Since the degree of difficulty and resulting implications of visual tasks performed by patients are in sharp contrast to those performed by health care professionals, an extreme level of flexibility.

The shift away from monolithic hospital centric campuses to an outpatient population-centric model is becoming evident. Some sources indicate that inpatient volumes are predicted to fall 5%, vs. 30% growth in outpatient volume. In recent years, the shift in the healthcare facility archetype has driven facility design away from predictable sterility and towards residential and hotel-like interiors for an increased degree of patient comfort. This not only provides an atmosphere of recovery for the patient, but promotes a greater degree of family member and caretaker comfort and involvement throughout the recovery process. This has not only been shown to improve patient recovery but also to reduce the demand on overextended health care practitioners and staff.

To this end, many lighting practitioners also strive to strike a reasonable balance between the introduction of daylight and artificial lighting equipment.

Additionally, providing patients the ability to control or adapt patient room lighting through accessible lighting controls, many times directly from the patient’s bed, has been shown to provide positive benefits to the health and wellbeing of patients and foster a sense of independence. It is important to point out that for some patients, the simple act of flipping a switch or pressing a button may be an immensely complicated endeavor.

This makes the development of more advanced control systems using integrated technologies such as voice and gesture recognition very promising for disadvantaged patients. However, despite the understandable desire to promote patient-friendly interiors and access to lighting controls, these technologies can lead to reduced visual performance and visual fatigue for health practitioners if not implemented correctly.