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Digital Nature

Designing a Healing Environment to Prevent Delirium And Enhance ICU Patient Experience

Delirium and Distressing ICU Environment

Delirium is an acute brain dysfunction characterized by a disturbance in attention, awareness, and cognition, which occurs in up to 80% of intensive care unit (ICU) patients. There are various risk factors of delirium including the distressing ICU environment with its overload of noise, artificial lights and lack of proper sensory stimulation. However, that same environment may also turn into a healing environment promoting sleep, relaxation and orientation, as such becoming an important tool for preventing delirium.

Healing Environment and VitalSky

Digital Nature project is a collaboration between Philips Healthcare and University of Twente. We explore how smart technology can turn the ICU environment into a healing environment accommodating patient’s physical, psychological and emotional needs. We particularly focus on understanding positive sensory stimulations inspired by nature’s healing potential to enhance restoration (sleep), relaxation and reorientation, aiming to prevent delirium. At the same time, we investigate how human-device interactions in the ICU room can better support patient-centered care. Next to establishing a theoretical framework, this project aims at building an evidence basis for designing a healing environment and nature-based design interventions (visual contents) to support patient recovery and well-being in ICUs.     

Patient-centric approach and collaboration with key stakeholders

We take a patient-centric approach while collaborating closely with other key stakeholders in the medical domain to ensure maximum alignment of our design approach with their needs and requirements such as workflow efficiency in the ICU. Digital Nature project will provide innovative, evidence-based design strategies and solutions for preventing delirium and enhancing patient experience in the ICU.

The team

The UT team working on this project is prof. dr. ir. G. D. S. Ludden, dr. T. J. L. van Rompay, prof. dr. ir. G. J. Verkerke and ir. C. M. Kim. 


This project is supported by Top Technology Twente Connecting Industry program (TKI Topsector HTSM).

Learn more about the project

For more information about VitalSky, please visit Philips VitalMinds.

For the project activities and research outcomes, please check the below:

Introduction of the Digital Nature project in Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2020

Journal article about the technologies and strategies used for delirium prevention in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) 2021

Conference paper (full paper, peer-reviewed) about nature-based stimuli inducing relaxation presented at the Design Research Society (DRS) 2022

Journal article about the evidence-based framework of relaxing visual experiences in the International Journal of Human-computer Interaction (IJHCI) 2023 

Journal article about co-creating visions and strategies for a technology-enabled healing environment in the ICU in the Health Environment Research & Design Journal (HERD) 2024

For questions, please contact