What can be done to actively support the recovery of patients in intensive care? What role is played by the room's atmosphere, lighting, and acoustics? These questions are at the center of a current research project being conducted at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in conjunction with Philips. This collaborative project, which is scheduled to run for a duration of five years, aims to promote early recovery by preventing delirium in intensive care patients. The project sets out to study the impact of solutions that involve a patient-oriented intensive care environment, and avoid the use of additional medication.
Delirium is the most common type of acute brain dysfunction in intensive care patients. Characterized by a disturbance in attention, awareness, and cognition, the condition frequently results in complications. Delirium is considered one of the main risk factors affecting the recovery and survival of patients in intensive care units. For a long time, sedation formed part of the standard treatment of intensive care patients. However, this not only increases the risk of delirium, but it also makes the condition more difficult to diagnose. This is why 17 of our national professional associations agree that allowing patients to regain consciousness as early as possible improves their chances of a full recovery. The patient's environment also plays a major role in this regard: high levels of noise and activity in a ward environment that is typically cold and clinical, with little light during the day and bright lights during the night, cause stress and anxiety.
Back in 2010, Prof. Dr. Claudia Spies, Head of Charité's Department of Anesthesiology and Surgical Intensive Care Medicine, decided to embrace a new patient-oriented perspective. Supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, she embarked upon a project, with the cooperation of Berlin-based architecture firm Graft and media designers Art+Com, to develop a new treatment concept within an entirely new kind of intensive care unit. Two intensive care rooms were converted in such a way as to ensure medical equipment became less visible, noise levels were significantly reduced, and lighting levels could be adjusted in line with the patients' needs. The ceiling lights, which allow light levels to be controlled in terms of their intensity and frequency, were installed in order to help patients maintain a natural day/night cycle. Philips is supporting this project with innovative lighting technology, which was developed according to the specifications provided by the developers.
“We already know that maintaining a natural sleep/wake cycle improves patient well-being, and that it can also reduce the risk of delirium,” stresses Prof. Spies. She adds that “our five-year research cooperation will be able to build on previous findings, and will produce further studies into non-pharmacological approaches to the prevention of delirium in intensive care patients.” In conjunction with the Stifterverband funding program, Philips has set up a new professorship at Charité which, in addition to investigating environmental factors, will also be dedicated to studying the relationship between patients and their relatives, as well as their interactions with medical staff.
Prof. Dr. Claudia Spies
Head of the Department of Anesthesiology and Surgical Intensive Care Medicine
Campus Charité Mitte
Tel: +49 (30) 450 531 012
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