This week on the Bright Ideas series presented by Acuity Brands®, Sales Manager Tara Belloni joins us to discuss new lighting technologies for healthcare spaces. Coming out of the 2020 pandemic, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and senior living facilities are all under a microscope. It’s vital that these organizations measure up to the new higher standards that have developed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
MEETING UNIQUE LIGHTING NEEDS IN A HEALTHCARE FACILITY
Healthcare facilities currently face some of the most unique lighting challenges in the industry. Lighting design partners can no longer take a cookie-cutter approach to these areas, but fortunately current technologies, controls, and LEDs allow for more designs that focus on patient needs rather than just rapid or low-cost construction.
Hospitals are usually the first space to come to mind when it comes to healthcare lighting, but there are other inpatient and outpatient facilities that need to be considered as well, and they can be best understood by dividing them into two main categories: acute-care facilities, and chronic or long-term care facilities.
In acute care facilities, patients receive active but short-term care and follow-up treatments for an ongoing condition or from some sort of injury. Long-term care facilities provide rehabilitative, restorative, or ongoing skilled nursing care to patients or residents that require help with day-to-day health or basic living activities.
Now that people are living longer than decades before, prolonged age is revealing health concerns that facilities may not have had to take into account before when designing healthcare lighting. For example, over time the lenses in human eyes naturally shift to a yellow tint and so the amount of light required in a patient’s space may be different depending on their age. These changes can also impact that occupant’s circadian rhythm.
Regardless of the facility in question, lighting practitioners need to be able to incorporate systems with features like tunable lighting, natural light, and daylighting that also provide easy and intuitive controls for both the healthcare professionals as well as any patients in that space.
LIGHTING PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN HEALTHCARE FACILITIES
Lighting plays a major role in healthcare facilities–– often more than many of the occupants may ever realize. Lighting has the potential to improve a patient’s recovery, morale, and overall experience in the facility.
First and foremost, the patient’s safety is a key consideration to keep top of mind. Adequate lighting can help to prevent patient falls, but also ensure that the staff are able to evaluate and medicate their subjects properly. Lighting can also support circadian rhythms, calm patients and reduce stress, improve moods, and act as a positive distraction or means of entertainment.
Patient empowerment is also a valuable feature. Lighting controls can provide a sense of autonomy in spaces that can often be unfamiliar to them.
That being said, with so many different types of spaces in healthcare facilities, each is going to present its own set of challenges for designers.
BREAKING DOWN HEALTHCARE SPACES AND THEIR LIGHTING NEEDS
The main lighting strategy of an area in a healthcare facility will largely depend on whether it is a patient room, a surgical suite, an MRI suite, or a behavioral health space.
Patient rooms are one of the most plentiful spaces in the majority of healthcare facilities. These rooms need proper lighting for subjects of any age, and they require adequate levels so that the doctors and staff can properly evaluate and examine those patients. Designers may also want to incorporate very simplified and intuitive controls to provide some sense of autonomy and empowerment for the patients during their stay.
As for surgical suites, these are one of the most strict spaces when it comes to the required ratings and listings of light fixtures. The luminaires absolutely must be sealed for infection control. There is also likely to be a lot of large-scale equipment and machinery in the room, including attached to the ceiling. So, the lights will need to accommodate both for that use of space and for an abundance of digital monitors. The incorporation of green LEDs is a common trend in surgical suites because it not only helps to reduce glare on those screens, but also provides the human eye with maximum visual acuity and clarity.
One of the more specialized categories of healthcare lighting spaces is MRI suites. These areas contain very costly equipment that performs a very sensitive procedure–– and the experience may be intimidating for a patient unfamiliar with the process. Any luminaires that go into MRI suites need to have a non-ferrous construction–– meaning that they’re non-magnetic and will not interfere with the MRI machine’s imaging process. But the fixture should not flicker or provide uneven light: it should allow for smooth dimming and the drivers need to be able to be remote-mounted and stored somewhere else away from the machinery. They should also accommodate for the DC current that’s coming into the space to run that large-scale equipment.
Lastly, behavioral health spaces may refer to mental health facilities or to any sort of rehabilitation area, be it for short or long-term care. The patients here may qualify as high-risk, so designers need to take extra precaution when selecting the luminaires going into these facilities. They must be ligature-resistant, with no graspable edges or reveals on their structures. However, these are unfortunately mere recommendations rather than legal requirements. North America currently has no ratings, listings, or standards when it comes to behavioral health facilities. Fortunately, there is a growing body of research that’s creating guidelines and pointing designers in the right direction of what luminaires are best to incorporate into these spaces.
HEALTHCARE LIGHTING CONTINUES TO CHANGE DRASTICALLY
Historically, aesthetics were not really a primary focus of healthcare lighting, but the industry is growing now. Luminaire controls, aesthetic appeal, and patient experience are starting to take more precedence than in the past. Many facilities are even starting to include more residential-feeling luminaires to help patients feel a little more at home during their stay.
Whatever the healthcare space a designer may be trying to light, every single area’s lighting requirements are unique. Designers can no longer take one single approach to an entire facility. The lighting must be customized space by space, with different daylighting and color features.
This may take more work than in the past, but taking this approach with the subject’s wellness in mind may even expedite healing; creating a better experience not only for the patients and visitors but also the staff members who spend many long hours in those areas.Another aspect of wellness through lighting in healthcare facilities is the implementation of UV lighting as a means of disinfection which Gary Trott will return to discuss in next week’s episode. In the meantime, to learn more about the healthcare lighting offerings that Acuity Brands can provide, visit acuitybrands.com/healthcare-lighting.
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