Cochrane Summaries

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Sensory environment on health-related outcomes of hospital patients

Drahota A, Ward D, Mackenzie H, Stores R, Higgins B, Gal D, Dean TP
Published Online: 
14 March 2012

The hospital environment (such as sounds, pictures, aromas, design, air quality, furnishings, architecture, and layout), may have an impact on the health of patients within it. This review aims to summarise the best available evidence on hospital environments, in order to help people involved in the design of hospital environments make decisions that will benefit patients' health.

The review identified 102 relevant studies, 85 of which were on the use of music in hospital. Other environmental aspects considered were: aromas (two studies), audiovisual distractions (five studies), decoration (one study), air quality (three studies), bedroom type (one study), flooring (two studies), furniture and furnishings (one study), lighting (one study), temperature (one study), and multiple design changes (two studies). No studies meeting the inclusion criteria were found to evaluate: art, access to nature for example through hospital gardens, atriums, flowers, and plants, ceilings, interventions to reduce hospital noise, patient controls, technologies, way-finding aids, or the provision of windows.

Overall, it appears that music in hospital may help improve patient-reported outcomes such as anxiety; however, there is less evidence to support the use of music for physiological outcomes (such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure) and for reducing the use of medications. For other aspects of hospital environments, there are not very many well designed studies to help with making evidence-based design decisions. The studies that have been included in this review show that physical changes made to 'improve' the hospital environment on the whole do no harm.