A Picture of Good Health

Incorporating art into health care settings proves to have long-reaching benefits for patients and doctors in Kansas City hospitals.

The history of hospital décor is a barren one: bleached-white sheets, whitewashed hallways and crisp, white uniforms to present a bastion of sterility. This lack of color and expression has long been thought of as a necessity in the health care industry—sterility combats infection and the spread of disease—but recently, studies suggest the incorporation of artwork into hospital settings can have tangible benefits in the healing process.

Above and at bottom: Colorful murals created by Kansas City artist Donald “Scribe” Ross.

In 2009, the Society for the Arts in Healthcare released a study on the impact of introducing art and creativity into hospital environments. The study suggests that hospitals that incorporate art into their surroundings often see shorter hospital stays, a drop in needed medication and fewer complications with their patients—all of which translates into a significant reduction in overall health care costs.

Kansas City’s health care community seems to have taken notice: Across the metro, hospitals and clinics are building artwork into their design plans. In the University of Kansas Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Care and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, artwork features prominently in the décor, both in patient and staff areas. Paul Dorrell, art consultant and owner of the Leopold Gallery in Brookside, feels displaying art in these two spaces serves to soften the cold face that hospitals have traditionally presented to visitors.

“When people come through the door of a hospital into a big lobby, their first impression is daunting,” Dorrell says. “They are normally visiting under duress, so our job is to soften the experience from the minute they enter the campus.”

Read more about the impact of art in hospitals in the digital edition of KC Business.

 See the full image gallery of our Picture of Health article at the KC Magazine Imgur page.