Daylight does not only have obvious time limits, also it does not reach confined spaces in hospitals.

Our group is testing virtual ilumination solutions in dark boxes where natural light cannot be possible, to provide artificially illumination and views comparable to real windows and skylights. In the ICU of Clínica INDISA Universidad Andrés Bello in Santiago de Chile, with 80 ICU beds, happends the same thing as in several hospitals around the world: some rooms don´t have a window because of architectural needs. We have the same problem in some working areas, where staff developes the work with artificial light. We were looking for a solution.

The lack of a difference between day and night and the alteration of the circadian rhythm that it entails, can favor the appearance of delirium in the admitted patients, but it is complex to provide a solution when the reasons are determined by the physical structure of the building.

Looking for a solution, we are testing the use of virtual skylights with illusion of nature. For this we associated with two Chilean architects (Nicole Guitriot  and Javiera Zúñiga), both from Universidad Mayor. They created this innovative solution called LED BE, and with the support of Star Up Chile – an innovative initiative accelerator created by the Government –, and they are making virtual skylights with affordable cost to our hospitals, which always have budget restrictions. These skylights provide “daylight” with images of nature and are very simple to install in the false ceilings of clinical spaces, with the same dimensions as standard sheets, and are also washable and can be disinfected. They only need to be connected to the room lights circuit, with a plug in system and are very low consumption.

Thus, a closed space can be turn into a luminous space similar than a window.  Panels are designed as matrixs of small light sources that resemble the sky or the horizon. Preliminary results show that both staff and patients value this initiative very much. A patient told us:  “I felt as in the jail in this room. I told my husband please take me out of here. It is really important what you are doing for me as a patient”.

LED BE allows to create a realistic-looking skylight on the ceiling that gives a more relaxing view to patients who are lying on an ICU bed. Various alternatives can be displayed; clouds, a clear sky or foliage of trees. These skylights help to transform any dull and secluded room into a slightly warmer and more cozy place. In addition, the size, shape and image can be customized according to the needs, whether you want a square, a circle or another shape.

We are developing a “before-after” study with patient and staff surveys to measure the impact on the well-being declared by patients and professionals in our service, and on the prevalence of delirium. We believe is a powerful, simple and economical solution for those who seek to humanize the spaces and generate wellbeing for those who inhabit it, either patients or those who care for them.

By Sebastián Ugarte