The sound of the Arts as Patient Experience

Patient Experience Symposium 2018, Sydney, 9th & 10th April.

At the opening of the Patient Experience Symposium today Vic McEwan from the artist-led Cad Factory spoke about his work in expressing the patient experience through arts.

Vic’s particular interest is in the interaction between the patient experience and the acoustic environment.

As part of the Harmonic Oscillation project he recorded sound levels in hospital settings and interviewed patients to explore the impact of sound on their experience of the care setting.

“We found that the sound level in an average hospital ward was much higher the sound level on a bus in peak hour traffic.”

“International studies show that not one hospital has met the World Health Organisation recommended noise levels – all have been higher and in some cases twice as high as recommended levels.”

His literature study indicated that this directly correlated to experiences of higher medication use and longer admission periods.

As part of the Harmonic Oscillation project they also recorded the heartbeat of a young woman, Elisha who had recently been admitted to palliative care. From the recording they isolated a single heartbeat and then played that single heartbeat in an unusual recording studio possessing extraordinary acoustic properties – a 250m by 35m abandoned oil tank buried in the Scottish highlands.

During his presentation he played the 2-minute clip of her single heartbeat as it reverberated within the cavernous space. It has been preserved as a sound that not only serves as a legacy to Elisha’s life but also symbolically represents the significance and volume of each patient‘s experience in health.

The work formed part of their Harmonic Oscillation exhibit at the Tate Modern in London.

“I was told by a large gallery in Australia that there wasn’t any interest in patient-informed art in health. Ironically two days later I was contacted by the Tate (Modern) and we were invited to exhibit in London. The Australian gallery later heard about it as they realised they had really missed the boat.”

“In my opinion mural-based style of arts in hospitals is no longer good enough, the future is in art practices that interactively engage with patients.”

The Patient Experience Symposium 2018 is being held in Sydney on 9th and 10th of April.