Bellvitge Hospital transforms ICU using multisensory technology to improve critical patient’s physical and emotional well-being

- Facilities

The project makes possible an early start of the rehabilitation treatment, aimed at recovering the patient's state prior to admission, as well as at avoiding post-traumatic stress, delirium and pain in both sedated and awake patients

The 64 ICU boxes offer now immersive multisensory experiences, allowing for great possibilities to be used by professionals as a therapy means

The initiative, financed with European funds, is unique in the world.

The impact of this paradigm shift from a closed ICU to an open ICU where, in addition to the vital functions, the patient’s emotional and social aspects are taken care of, will be evaluated

Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB for its acronym in Catalan) has transformed the 64 boxes of its Intensive Care Unit with the incorporation of sensory elements (lights, projections, sounds, vibrations). The aim is to achieve both functional and cognitive rehabilitation of critical patients. Thanks to the recreation of different scenes, any of the 64 boxes in the ICU can now become a forest, the ocean, a ship, a calm night, or even display personal pictures of journeys and records. All in order to generate immersive experiences according to the needs of the patient in hospital.

According to the scientific literature, between 30% and 50% of patients in intensive care develop the so-called post-ICU syndrome, a set of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms caused by admission that lead to a significant deterioration in quality of life after discharge.

In order to mitigate this, Bellvitge Hospital has created these frames for the patient’s emotional and physical well-being. These are possible thanks to simple and structured experiences, allowing infinite possible interactions in accordance to the patient’s specific needs. A single device controls all the elements of the room: projectors, lights, sounds, bed vibratory movements, and more. In addition, the system enables its adaptation to the patient's circadian rhythm, using different levels of light and music. This helps the patient not to lose track of time during a long stay in hospital and may be used as a therapeutic means to achieve the desired health results, among other uses.

"The environment with visual, auditory and tactile sensory stimulation makes possible an early start of the rehabilitation treatment, aimed at recovering, as far as possible, the patient's state prior to admission. We work, among other things, on the prevention of delirium and the modulation of painful stimuli in both sedated and awake patients", states Dr Francesc Esteve, section head of the Intensive Care Medicine Department at Bellvitge University Hospital.

This environment created in the ICU boxes reinforces the sense stimulation of the critical patient, their performance of daily life actions, such as eating and drinking or personal care, their interaction, communication and awareness of themselves and their environment.

The technology will also be used to implement protocol-based cognitive stimulation techniques to work on different functions such as perception, orientation, reasoning, memory and spatial and temporal orientation, which are key. "In this way we can stimulate the brain areas of sensory perception, motor control, cognition, emotions and communication," said Dr Esteve.

In addition, multisensory stimulation techniques will be applied to invasive and frequent procedures that are typical of Critical Care Units, such as the insertion of catheters or drainage, some treatments and the routine cures. The integration of technology with the figure of the occupational therapist in the ICU team is an important aspect that completes the technological innovation project.

Impact on patients and the health system

A research is planned to evaluate the impact of the project on the patient physical and emotional health in the coming months.

Furthermore, the innovative intervention with multisensory technology in the ICU, through the improvement of the clinical care process, the coordination between different levels of care and the promotion of patient autonomy, also means an improvement in the efficiency of the use of health system resources.

The Catalan company Qinera has installed the system in all of the 64 boxes and co-created it together with the healthcare team. The project is financed by the Operational Programme of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of Catalonia, which promotes the implementation of public procurement of innovation projects.

What does it mean to 'humanise' an ICU?

To humanise is to improve the care experience from all perspectives: the patient's, the family's and the professionals’.

The 'humanised' ICU at Bellvitge Hospital is an innovation on the concept of the closed ICU, with very restrictive regulations and traditionally perceived as a cold and hostile space where priority is given to physiological needs in order to save the patient’s lives.

"This project is a paradigm shift in terms of healthcare in the ICU. At Bellvitge we have made a commitment to a more open, friendly and comfortable ICU for patients, families and professionals. In addition to taking care of vital functions, we take care of the emotional and social side, as well as the person’s adaptation to daily life," explains Rafael Justel, assistant to the Director of HUB’s Nursing, and member of the project team. "The hospitalisation of a loved one in the ICU causes shock, anxiety, incredulity, fear and stress in the person's environment. Therefore, we have to manage the impact of this hospitalisation on both the patient and their families," he added.

The Bellvitge Hospital’s humanisation project has the collaboration of a large team made up of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, auxiliary nursery care technicians and porters.