Topical themes

HEALING ENVIRONMENTS FOR BETTER CARE

Classical music in the dentist’s waiting room can soothe and reassure patients. Colours and natural elements can be used to create a ‘healing environment’.

A care environment, such as the general practitioner's waiting room, the room in which a psychologist treats patients, or a room at a hospital, should inspire patients to expect good medical care from the care provider concerned. Such rooms are often white and look clean. But what about the patients' needs when it comes to relaxation, comfort and well-being? Situations in health care are often characterized by feelings of uncertainty, stress and anxiety.

Behavioural scientist Karin Tanja-Dijkstra, investigated "healing environments". She looked at the effects of the physical care environment on the health and well-being of patients. The physical care environment can in fact make a difference to how rapidly a patient recovers or adapts to certain chronic or acute circumstances. Healing environments can be created by adding plants or colour, or playing music.

Classical music in the waiting room
Karin Dijkstra looked at the effect of music on stress and anxiety in the dentist's or general practitioner's waiting room. Exposure to music is associated with positive changes in the moods of patients. The study showed that playing classical music in these waiting rooms resulted in less anxiety and stress, and a more attractive waiting room with a more professional atmosphere. The same experiment with popular music did not yield any significant results. Patients' musical preferences did not play a role here; even if patients did not like classical music, it had a calming effect anyway.

Nature and colours
Karin Tanja-Dijkstra also studied the effects of plants and colour in hospital and counselling rooms. Two studies showed that a plant, or even a painting of a tree, reduces stress in the patient. This may contribute to a more rapid recovery of the patient in question. The effects of colour depended to a large extent on the patient's personal character traits. It did, however, become clear that if a room in which patients are treated is white, this gives the room a professional look and ensures that the patients tell a psychologist more about themselves.

These relatively inexpensive, simple changes in the healthcare environment can alter the atmosphere in such a way as to lead to favourable effects in patients.

For further information, see www.utwente.nl/gw/mcp