Helios Universitätsklinikum Wuppertal ©Helios Kliniken
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Humans have a total of five senses, but no less than 80 percent of our sensory impressions are perceived through our eyes. Thus, it becomes understandable why colors and light can influence our thinking, feeling and acting. The color researchers Prof. Dr. Axel Buether and Chief Physician Dr. Gabriele Wöbker of the Bergische Universität Wuppertal have now investigated the extent to which this influence can also affect sick people on their way to recovery – specifically in an intensive care unit. In cooperation with the Helios University Hospital Wuppertal, they observed the effects of a new color and lighting concept on patients, visitors and staff in a one-year research study.

The result of the world’s largest research study in this field, which took place from October 2017 to October 2018, following renovation work in Houses 3 and 5 at the Helios site in Barmen: The redesign of the premises had a clearly visible, positive effect on everyone involved.

Satisfaction Increased by a Third

During the renovation work, walls, ceilings and doors, among other things, were repainted. All illuminants were also replaced. In order to achieve meaningful results, a quantitative survey using questionnaires and a qualitative interview with the participants were conducted before and after the renovation.

The evaluation of the surveys showed excellent results: The patients’ satisfaction with the rooms was increased by a third due to the new color and lighting design”, says Prof. Dr. Axel Buether.

Prof. Dr. Axel Buether & Chefärztin Dr. Gabriele Wöbker ©Helios Kliniken

The effect extends not only to the perception of the architectural space, but also to that of personal care. The impression of the rooms in which patients spend their time, described by those affected as a “feel-good atmosphere”, also seems to cause a more effective care.

Feelings such as Security and Comfort Promote Recovery

The positive evaluation of the nursing measures rose by almost 30 percent among the patients after the renovation. “In addition, patients feel much more private and comfortable on the ward after the renovation work. In particular, feelings such as security and comfort are a decisive factor for the recovery of the patients. Here we have achieved an increase of over 55 percent after the renovation”, explains Chief Physician Wöbker.

We can also draw on groundbreaking results in the effect of color and light on patients’ drug consumption. In this way, the consumption of medicine was reduced by an average of 30 percent over the same period”, says Dr. Gabriele Wöbker.

Thus, the results of the study show that the environmental factors light and color have a particularly positive effect on the well-being and state of health of intensive care patients. At the same time, they also promote the trust and satisfaction of relatives. And last but not least, they are also important for work motivation and staff identification.

Increased Employee Satisfaction

After the redesign of the ward, not only the satisfaction of the patients was increased, but also that of the employees. This was increased by about twelve percent. Apparently, the employees also identified themselves much strongly with their workplace: in the compared period, an increase of almost 30 percent was achieved. “The room quality of the patient rooms is even rated 40 percent better by the staff”, says Prof. Dr. Axel Buether.

The results thus prove the effectiveness of color and light on the well-being and satisfaction of all those involved. “The study was a complete success for us. According to the results, the factors color and light have a very large influence on people and their health”, says Buether. The Helios chief physician adds:

For us, the results are a clear signal that a great deal can be achieved with very few resources. In Wuppertal we will stick to the project in any case and expand it successively.”