Open Window project being rolled out to care units

24 Aug 2011

Artist Denis Roche has developed a programme to combat the stress of long-term isolation called ‘Open Window’, which he plans to roll out to nursing homes and hospitals around the country.

A recipient of €100,000 from the Arthur Guinness Fund for social entrepreneurs this year, Roche came up with the idea in 2001 after a friend of his had spent some time in the bone marrow transplant unit in James’s Hospital in Dublin.

“Patients in the unit were complaining about the bad use of the windows while they were being treated. The view was of waste ground and they couldn’t get a sense of the outside world,” he said.

“So I made a proposal to the Bone Marrow for Luekemia Trust around a virtual window using a projection system, and it gave me €40,000 in seed money to set up a prototype. Once that was in place I got a research grant of €235,000 from the Irish Cancer Society which funded a five-year clinical trial starting in 2004. This was the first large-scale randomised prospective trial of an arts intervention in a hospital anywhere.”

Nearly 200 people in clinical trial

Vodafone Foundation Ireland put €130,000 towards the project which allowed Roche to put equipment into eight rooms at James’s Hospital. There were 199 people involved in the study, 96 who had exposure to Open Window.

“The trial showed a significant reduction in anxiety for the patients who had access to Open Window and a 50pc improvement in the overall patient experience; 75pc found it provided a sense of connection with the outside world,” said Roche.

Over time, Roche commissioned 13 other artists to produce work for Open Window, including photographic streams and video. The patient has a remote control and can select the art work they want from a menu.

James’s Hospital has commissioned Roche to install Open Window to 22 rooms and he is currently working on projects with Kildare County Council for nursing homes and hospitals as well as with Carlow Mental Health Services.

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