Children and teenagers presenting to emergency rooms with behavioral health crises sometimes wait hours to days for a bed in a psychiatric unit or facility. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is trying to make that stay less stressful for patients and their families by incorporating technologies such as mood lighting, projected images of calming scenery and an interactive touchscreen allowing patients to draw, play music or games.
Also, this year, the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital in Baltimore opened a new inpatient psychiatry unit for patients ages 5-17 featuring nature themes, special lighting and patients’ choices of relaxing sounds. In both cases, clinicians aim to create more calming environments to help de-escalate behavioral and mental health crises.
The Dallas hospital opened three “Philips rooms” (named after Phillips, their health care technology partner) in their emergency department in June 2021. A fourth is scheduled to open in 2022.
The inspiration behind these rooms
Inspiration came partly from two memorable patient experiences, said Keri Kaiser, senior vice president and chief marketing and experience officer for Children’s Health, during a recent webinar hosted by Becker’s Healthcare. Kaiser was in the ED one day when she saw a young girl, who was extremely violent, being held in a bare room alone. She was in the custody of Child Protective Services and had no parents or guardians with her. Because of her aggression, staff limited their interaction while hoping to find a placement in a psychiatric facility. On another occasion, Kaiser’s friends told her that their daughter, who was being held in the ED, was physically safe but felt helpless being stuck in a bare room.
Shortly after, Kaiser and others with the health system were scheduled to visit Philips to see what technology advancements could be brought to the neonatal intensive care unit. The company has worked with hospitals to offer what it calls the “ambient experience” — a variety of room designs, dynamic lighting, image projection and calming sounds to make waiting areas, and procedure and recovery rooms more pleasant. As Kaiser viewed these options, she asked if they could also be used for behavioral and mental health patients in the ED.
Geneva Burnap, M.B.A., R.N., N.E.A.-B.C., a nurse, and senior director for emergency services at Children’s Health, said during the webinar that she initially got some pushback about creating these rooms, because behavioral health holds only made up 4.5% of their patients. But studying analytics, she and her colleagues found that some 20% of care hours were spent on these patients.