29 January 2016

Art's Healthcare Intervention (2016)

Arts in healthcare is a growing development within the medical sector aimed at improving the overall health and wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors with an aesthetically engaging health care facility that results in improved patient health, recovery and wellbeing including clinical outcomes.

The significant research over the last ten years, offers reliable evidence that the intervention of art in clinical settings reduces blood pressure, heart rate, length of hospital stay and perception of pain. Other benefits of creating a well-designed environment are that they feel less institutional, functions more effectively and result in higher levels of staff morale, job satisfaction and staff retention.

Published by the Arts Council England, Rosalie Lelchuk Staricoff’s Arts in Health: a Review of the Medical Literature (2004) found that with some treatments, engagement with the arts had a positive effect on pain management, alleviation of side effects, and the level of stress and anxiety experienced by the patient. In addition to this, the inclusion of the arts in the training and professional development of health professionals improved communication and understanding between staff and patient.

In relation to the effects of the arts on children’s health, research studies have shown clear and reliable evidence that the following clinical outcomes have been achieved:

  • Cancer care: visual art and music have been used in a number of studies addressing high anxiety and depression during chemotherapy. The arts were effective in reducing both anxiety and depression, and acted as a potent adjuvant to avert side-effects of the treatment; 
  • Medical procedures: a number of medical procedures for screening and/or diagnosis generate high levels of stress. Arts interventions have been shown to increase the perception of comfort, to reduce the levels of cortisol (a hormonal indicator of stress) and to significantly control blood pressure levels.
  • Surgery: self-selected music, live music and the visual arts have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as well as helping to control vital signs. 

Recognising the benefits of incorporating art into the design of health care facilities, Ronald McDonald House engaged Artsource to develop an art strategy for their new accommodation facility in Nedlands.

The new Ronald McDonald House features several large-scale installations, interactive 3D art works, 2D murals and 82 art works installed throughout the house. The art work, in combination with Gerry Kho architects’ inspired architectural design, has received an overwhelmingly positive response, providing a welcoming and highly engaging therapeutic environment for both the children and their families.