The Trigger Effect of Art in Healthcare
Nearly every hospital in America is aware of the value of artwork and the role of the environment in decreasing stress for patients and visitors. Yet, not all facilities have executed effective art programs based on this knowledge. Chris Naughton, AIA, describes the concept well in this article published in Healthcare Design Magazine, Prescribing Art to Better Healthcare. He says “For the most part, much of the art placed in hospitals is little more than poster art, dressed up with a nice frame and expressing little or no connection to the site, patient experience, or psychological effect on patients. However well intentioned, these efforts mostly fall short of their potential to create real impact on patients. So art in hospitals mostly becomes an afterthought, quite secondary, and only convenient if there is a little money left over to help spruce up the environment.”
Naughton goes on to discuss what he calls a “trigger effect,” which he believes is the missing piece in hospital art programs. “Traditional medical intervention helps the body but does little for the mind and the human psyche. It is art that allows us to connect the human spirit to the body, and if that relationship can be appropriately affected, that will have a profound impact on health.”
As healthcare art consultants, one of our first tasks is to help our hospital clients identify their art program goals — and then we work with them to create art programs that meet those goals. Oftentimes, our process includes a deep dive into the possible “triggers” that could be incorporated into the facility art program to elicit a specific response. For example, the art program at Winchester Medical Center features images that were thoughtfully selected to celebrate the unique beauty of Frederick County, Virginia through the eyes of local artists, and offer images that triggered a sense of familiarity for patients and visitors.