In healthcare facilities, lighting is used not only for the illumination of rooms or for design purposes, but also to create a sense of well-being for patients and to enhance the performance of doctors and medical staff. As a result, LEDs are being deployed on a large scale in the healthcare sector.
By Potshangbam July
Healthcare is considered as one of the most energy-intensive sectors. Hospitals and medical facilities consume a significant amount of energy as they operate round-the-clock every day of the week. Lighting plays an important role in the healthcare setup as it is used in ICUs, operation theatres and other key areas. High-quality light is needed to provide a safe and comfortable environment for patients, hospital staff and visitors.
Research shows that lighting also has a significant impact on the health and well-being of patients, by creating a pleasing and positive environment around them. Insufficient or dull lighting can increase stress levels, affect mood and energy, and can even lead to mild forms of depression. Through the application of optimal lighting, healthcare establishments can achieve their prime goals of improving the patient’s healing process and working conditions of the hospital staff.
That said, LED lights are rapidly becoming the standard lighting technology in healthcare, given the benefits associated with them.
Why hospitals are upgrading to LED lights
LEDs are 90 per cent more energy-efficient than incandescent lamps and 50 per cent more energy efficient than CFLs. In addition, they have a long life span, and can last up to 50,000-60,000 hours.
These factors bring down the operational and maintenance costs for the hospitals that use LEDs. They involve a higher capital cost, but save a considerable amount of expenditure via electricity bills, which is usually a huge burden for hospitals.
LEDs are much safer to use in healthcare facilities as they generate less heat. Traditional lighting technologies such as halogen and incandescent bulbs are fragile, and use a metal filament encased by a glass bulb, which needs to be heated until it emits light. This heated filament evaporates and deposits metal on the glass envelope. Halogen and incandescent bulbs not only waste a large amount of energy but also have the risk of combustion, which is unsafe for hospitals.
LEDs are non-ferrous in nature and do not have filaments or emit radio frequencies, making them safe to use in the MRI centre of hospitals and also in other areas like CT scan rooms, surgical areas and recovery rooms. Lighting in an MRI facility needs extra care and caution, and it is important to ensure that the lighting elements are non-ferrous in nature to avoid interference in the operation of equipment.
Another advantage of LEDs not having filaments is that they do not release white noise. This occurs with incandescent bulbs when the filament is on the verge of failure or damage.
The high levels of CRI (colour rendering index) in LEDs allow light sources to illuminate the objects, materials, skin tones, etc, more accurately. This helps doctors to observe the medical condition of the patients under artificial light. In the field of medicine, accurate colour rendering is considered to be one of the most critical diagnostic tools, and therefore lighting should have a high CRI rating.
In the past, a CRI rating of 80 was recommended as the minimum requirement for lighting in a healthcare setting. However, today’s healthcare facilities use lighting with a CRI rating of 90 or higher.
In addition, LED lights are highly focused and unidirectional in nature, so they do not produce shadows. They are also flicker-free and turn on instantly.
Importance of control systems
Control systems not only impact operational efficiency and help slash the costs associated with power and maintenance, but they also benefit patient health. Traditional light switches have only two settings – on and off. Whether it’s day or night, they put out the same amount of light. By using control systems like dimmers, the quantity of light can be controlled based on the requirements of the individual patient. This not only improves the experience and comfort of the patients, but also helps to save energy. The colour changing RGB LED light controller is also an ideal solution for hospitals. It has the ability to produce any shade of colour by mixing the three primary colours—red, green and blue. Such lights can be used in MRI or CT scan rooms to help patients stay calm by creating a comfortable atmosphere.
The LED colour temperature controller plays a significant role in influencing the mood and emotion of a patient. It is also beneficial in the healing process of patients. A low colour temperature creates a warm and cosy light effect, whereas a high colour temperature has a cool and more energising effect. LED light sources with a colour temperature of 5000K or higher possess a significant blue wavelength component. This spectrum of light mimics the mid-day sun, which helps in stimulating the circadian rhythm. Colour temperatures in the 2700K to 3000K range have a calming effect and can help patients to relax prior to sleep.
Another efficient hospital lighting control system is the LED occupancy sensor. It illuminates the rooms automatically when motion is sensed and turns the lights off when no movement is detected after a certain period of time. This prevents energy wastage and saves money on power bills, without having to depend on manual operation. These sensors also extend the life span of bulbs and fixtures by switching them on and off less frequently.
Applications of LEDs in medical practices
LEDs are used in various medical practices, some of which are highlighted below.
Surgical lighting: The quality of lighting is very essential for every operating room. LED based surgical lights have become the most convenient light for overhead illumination in operating rooms of many hospitals and also for dental treatment. In comparison with the traditional incandescent version, LED surgical lights are equipped with more advanced control options that allow easy adjustment of colour temperatures, illumination levels, and spotlight settings. They minimise the strain on eyes, and enhance concentration and energy levels. Besides, they also eliminate shadows and bring down the heat radiated in the surgical area.
The emission of infrared rays and ultraviolet radiation from LEDs is very low, which is safe for highly-controlled medical environments. This reduces the risk of interference with sensitive chemical compounds, diagnostic sensors or specialised treatments.
LED human-centric lighting: When patients are kept in dark rooms with not enough bright white light, it causes a disruption in their circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. Normal sleep patterns are essential for the healing process and for the well-being of the patients. LED human-centric lighting is helpful to address this issue, as it can create lighting that mimics natural daylight. The biological rhythm of the patients can also be strengthened by adjusting the light colour and intensity to follow natural light. Using IoT, these lights can be controlled and customised in real-time.
Examination lights: Examination lights are not to be confused with surgical lights – the former are used for local illumination of the patient’s body during diagnostic and minor surgical procedures. They are flexible and mobile, which makes it possible for the doctor or an examiner to focus on the affected body areas minutely. LED lights are unidirectional in nature, which means they emit light in a specific direction or area, making them ideal for patient examination. They deliver bright white and cool lighting, and minimise shadows that may hamper the performance of the medical professionals.
LED light therapy: Research indicates that LED light therapy can be effective for healing wounds and other types of skin damage, and has an excellent safety profile. This LED based light therapy can help in treating various skin related issues like dull skin, acne, sun burn, wrinkles, dermatitis, eczema, etc. The different wavelengths of light in LED lights, including blue and red, get into the skin at different depths.
The penetration of these blue and red lights may initiate biological processes that help in healing and rejuvenating the skin. In fact, LED therapy is recommended for regular use, as there is no presence of harmful UV rays in LEDs.
LED endoscopic lighting: Endoscopy is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to look inside the human body, and has surgical and diagnostic applications. To get the right illumination has always been a challenge while designing an endoscope. It’s now getting more complex as these systems have become smaller in size. Interestingly, LEDs have become a sought-after technology for endoscopy because of their reliability and ease of integration into endoscopes. They are being used as the source of light for endoscopic devices because of their good light quality, high luminous output, dynamic control and low power consumption.