A typical hospital room doesn’t exactly induce serenity. Glaring neutral-colored walls crowded with medical devices clash with chilly linolium tile floors. The view out the window – if there even is a window - might be of another building, a parking garade or a sea of ashphalt. For ailing patients, the scenery probably isn’t going to help put them at ease.
But can images of snow-capped mountains, a Carribean beach paradise or a meandering forest brook brighten a patient’s mood and accelerate the healing process. Ernesto Rodriguez thinks so, and so do more than 500 hospitals around the globe.
Rodriguez is CEO of Sereneview, a California company that produces hospital curtains and other similar products filled with rich nature imagery. There are mountains, forests, lakes and rivers that fill wall-sized backgrounds for hostipal room. Rodriguez has spent several years as a nature photographer and was inspired to start Sereneview after hiking among the redwoods of northern California. He had visited a friend in the hospital and was struck by how nurturing the forest felt in contrast to the hospital. Rodriguez fused his training in psychology and design to focus on creating relaxing nature imagery that could take the edge off the sterile hospital environment and even inspire wellness.
To Seneneview, the benefit of nature imagery in the hospital is evidence-based.
“Forty-years of research documents the link between viewing nature photographs and lowering blood pressure, lowering anxiety, reduced need for pain medication, shorter hospital stays and less complications after surgery,” according to Seneneview website. “ Exposure to a Nature scene affects the autonomic nervous system and enhances the healing process.”
“The human body is a walking pharmacy, ” Rodriquez said during a recent conversation with WHCC Health Innovations, meaning human biology has enough healing mechanisms to battle many diseases – but only under the right conditions. If there’s too much stress or an unfavorable environment, the healing process isn’t likely to work as well.
An increasing number of hosptials are paying attention to how thier patient rooms appear rather than just what kind care they are equipped to deliver. The U.S. Veterans Administration uses the curtains in its hospitals.
“An environment that’s reminding people about life outside the hospital, and giving them a vision of where they’re going – I think – keeps people’s hopes up,” said Graham H. Creasey, MD Chief, Spinal Cord Injury Service, VAPalo AltoHealth Care System, in a testimonial on the Sereneview website.
Rodriquez said the current practice of how people are hospitalized dates to centuries ago to when Europe was cripled by the bubonic plague. People infected with the deadly virus were walled off in large institutions to prevent them from infecting the general populations. The practices of housing patients in fortress-like structures persisted.
Sereneview has gone global with its designs and hopes to convince more hosptials to adopt nature imagery as a tool for imporving a patient’s outlook and overall health. The company plans to display a poster at the World Health Care Congress Middle East in Abu Dhabi next month.