In recent years, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust has been laying laying the foundations to implement the next generation of healthcare – environments, designs, technologies and systems that will transform the way we care for patients.
As part of our flagship Arts in Health programme, CW+ is working with an ever-expanding range of health technology partners and emerging and experienced artists to elevate the patient environment and enhance staff wellbeing.
Our award-winning RELAX Digital programme uses moving imagery and installations to distract and relax patients in waiting and treatment areas. We continue to commission artists to work with immersive, virtual and mixed reality. This includes virtual landscapes and skyscapes, AI immersive art and other projects that bring the outside world into our hospitals.
We have facilitated several Virtual Reality (VR) studies and ongoing projects at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and West Middlesex University Hospital. In partnership with DR.VR by Rescape Innovation, this includes an evaluation in Children’s A&E and Burns around the use of the DR.VR headset to improve anxiety and pain levels; a Sleep Study in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU), monitoring the effect of VR on sleep quality in the ICU environment; and a Cardiac Catheter Lab study (CLeVR) assessing the outcomes of VR with patient anxiety, pain, heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac autonomics and respiratory rate. These innovative ongoing studies combine clinical observation, patient questionnaires and clinician lead research, with a bespoke VR kit and data collection equipment.
We have collaborated with film artist Leon Ancliffe from Flix Films to create a series of bespoke VR footage that patients can view using a Virtual Reality headset. Scenes include Clapham Common, Kew Gardens, Richmond Park and a view from the Thames River.
Check out our blog post about the VR content we have commissioned, linked here.
Deer in Richmond Park
A boat ride along The Thames
We commissioned a network of environmental sensors across several areas in the hospitals, providing clinical teams with detailed real-time information on air quality and noise levels. Not only can this be used by these teams for optimisation of the environment, it also provides a rich data source for research exploring how environmental factors can have an impact on patient recovery. A recent piece of research using this data explored the potential links between environmental factors and the development of delirium, the results of which were shared at the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine conference in 2023.
ROBOTICS AND AI
Our digital health and robotics programme to aid patient wellbeing and recovery launched in 2015 with the Breathing Stone. To further develop this programme, we are exploring new and innovative ways to combine technology and healthcare in an acute environment.
This has expanded into working with robotic companion pets Miro and Paro. Developed by Consequential Robotics, Miro is an artificial dog-like pet who responds to voice, movement, touch and sight through built in sensors and sensory recognition. Similarly, Paro is a tactile pet developed for interaction with older patients, developed by AIST. Another ‘companion’ innovation is under development by artist Min Young Kim in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University. This is in the form of a bedside virtual flower which can be interacted with by patients, to create the sense of nature, life and growth in a clinical setting.
Studio Inneract, founded by Zheyuan Zhang, started work on the Immersive Healing Arts Project in 2019. A dual-screen digital artwork that responds to emotions was launched in the Level 5 Sky Garden at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as the initial pilot of the concept in early 2020.
In 2022 a new version of the work, Rippling Senses, was unveiled on the lower ground floor of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. It uses bodily movement and facial recognition sensors to generate bespoke artwork created by an Artificial Intelligence algorithm. The intention is to create healing art that interacts with people in an intriguing way, counter-acting negative emotions and inducing positive ones.
Innovative uses of music and sound technology have been shown to have benefits for patients in a number of medical environments. Andrew Hall, our Sound and Research Consultant, works closely with hospital staff and patients to research and create bespoke audio projects or installations which can be tailored towards specific areas of the hospital, creating the optimum healing environment. Read more about Andy's work here.
The Zoo is a 90-minute-long bespoke digital artwork commission that can be played on a seamless loop, featuring moving portraits of 42 different domestic and wild animals. The film was designed with creative filmmaker Accademia, with the aim of providing a positive distraction to children waiting or being treated in the Children’s Emergency Department as Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, who can often be anxious, distressed or experiencing pain.
We partnered with London Aquarium, Colchester Zoo, Battersea Dogs and Cats home, Battersea Park Children’s Zoo and Hounslow Urban Farm to film the animals. The digital film is accompanied by a small booklet called The Zoo Passport, which gives information about some of the animals featured, including their names, ages and fun facts about their species.
A partnership that has stemmed from our Digital Zoo success is with San Diego Zoo, which has generously supported our Future Hospital programme by providing engaging content of zoo animals across multiple paediatric departments. You can read more about their work and our partnership here.