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Hospital ward

by • 2 Jul, 2014 • Technology, Thoughts about museumsComments (3)2526

Museums and technology for health and well-being

Depending on the country and culture you live in, museums, heritage and art play a vastly different role in society. In many Western countries museums are seen as a luxury product aimed at and paid for by the haves – especially in the eyes politicians of certain political ideology. Museums can be so much more than a luxury product though, and they often are. 

At the MuseumNext conference in Newcastle one of my favourite sessions looked at the relation between hospitals, museums, technology and well-being. At the end of the session we had seen the average stay in a hospital being shortened by one day, and messages of hope and wellbeing being spread to patients. Not a bad accomplishment for a luxury product.

Andrew Nugee of Imagineear told about the Rhapsody project, a collaborative effort of many stakeholders including the NHS at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The hospital has been awarded a museum status in 2009 thanks to its extensive collection of over 1,000 artworks. In addition the hospital hosts 350 concerts annually. The Rhapsody projects brings the artworks and newly composed music by fresh talent together in an audio guide app that can be enjoyed by the patients and their guests alike. Simple and effective. Some stats:

  • 100% of patients were relaxed by the guides, 56% very much so
  • 100% of patients had boredom alleviated, 63% very much so
  • 100% of patients experienced a psychological lift, 27% very much so

Or, as Darren Brown, physiotherapist at the hospital, said: “Without the Rhapsody audio guide, my patient stayed in bed. But now we are using the incentive of the music to go a bit further off the ward each day.” Excellent work, art!

The healing effect of museums isn’t limited to the UK, recently ranked by the Commonwealth fund as having the number one health care system of 11 rich countries, though. The other project in the session came from the city defined by some as the pinnacle of luxury: Dubai. 

In preparation for the opening of the Al Maktoum Hospital Museum, Dubai Culture launched a smart media campaign #wordsthatheal. Through social media and other channels words with healing power were first collected and then shared with patients in the country. Look at the video or social buzz to get a sense of the effect of this campaign. Again: simple and effective.

Last week the Dutch Creative Industries Fund sent me the publication of this year’s Hedy d’Ancona Prize for excellent architecture in health care. The publication (in Dutch, but they’ll send it to you for free) showcases a set of creative innovations in healthcare that have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of patients. Many of these innovations, such as Philips’ OneSpace ceiling, are clearly related to work we do in museums. I can, for instance, only imagine the health benefits of being able to enjoy the collection of the Mauritshuis or Rijksmuseum all around me when I’m tied to my hospital bed.

Of course there are many other examples in other areas of health and wellbeing. MoMA’s MeetMe comes to mind and I’m sure you know of others (please do share them in the comments!). Museums play a role in health and wellbeing and technology enables us to do so. Museums can be so much more than a luxury product.

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