Patients are recovering faster on this hospital ward – thanks to dynamic lighting

Patients at the new geriatric ward at this hospital in Germany’s Sauerland region are recovering faster and feeling calmer, thanks to a more ‘natural’ lighting scheme, which changes throughout the day.

The lights at the Maria-Hilf Hospital automatically replicate the characteristics of sunlight, adjusting in colour and intensity according to the time of the day, following the circadian rhythms (body clocks) of patients and staff. ‘We have had a very positive experience with this,’ says Birgit Hennemann, head nurse on the geriatric ward.

German manufacturer Trilux installed the circadian lighting in the patients’ rooms and corridors, and all the LED luminaires are controlled by a central light management system.

Not only does the lighting prevent patients’ day/night rhythm from getting out of sync, it’s also designed with the particular needs of elderly people in mind.

This means illuminance levels are high – a 75-year-old, for example, needs light that is 20 times brighter than someone in their early 20s. On top of this, a lot of attention is required in the planning stage to avoid reflections or pronounced light/dark contrasts, which can increase the risk of falls and accidents.

All this has an immediate impact on the wellbeing of the patients. More light reduces feelings of uncertainty, improves balance, and supports a more relaxed state of mind. Hennemann says that on her ward, ‘the patients feel better faster, and are calmer’.
In the development of the circadian lighting solutions, Trilux’s engineers rely on the latest insights from sleep research,showing that the human body clock responds to different portions of blue and red in the light. Depending on the composition of the light, the hormones melatonin and cortisol are generated, and they have a significant impact on the wake and sleep phases and thereby control performance and wellbeing.

Lighting is not the only thing that plays an important role in the new geriatric ward – the overall approach is a holistic one. As head physician Dr Heinrich Kerkhoff says: ‘High-tech medicine alone rarely brings an older person back to health.’ Individual treatment plans are developed for each patient. Physiotherapists, psychologists, speech therapists, social services, and nutritional consultants work hand in hand.

The interior design of the department, by Cologne-based 100% Interior, includes an interplay of colours in the furnishings, rather than the sterile atmosphere people usually expect on a hospital ward.

The aim is to get patients moving again a few days after surgery, counteract muscle loss and prevent the need for extra care.