NEW INNOVATOROPEN WINDOW is a web-based system that uses a combination of artworks and family support to improve the quality of life of those in hospital and long term care settings.
The concept was pioneered at the bone marrow transplant unit in St James’s Hospital in Dublin where patients are isolated during their six-week treatment and often experience distress and anxiety as a result.
The impetus to develop Open Window came from Prof Shaun McCann, a pioneering clinician with a keen interest in the arts. He felt it might be possible to use some sort of creative/artistic intervention help patients feel less cut off.
The man responsible for turning this idea into a live system is musician, artist and cognitive computing expert Denis Roche, who recently launched start-up company Vivartes to sell Open Window as a commercial product.
Open Window has been almost 10 years in development. During this time, the project has received assistance from St James’s Hospital, the Irish Cancer Society, the Arts Council and Enterprise Ireland. It has also raised some BES funding.
The company employs four people and has just received its first overseas order for a six-room installation at the bone marrow transplantation unit in Tallinn, Estonia.
In 2011, Vivartes won €100,000 (and business mentoring) from Diageo’s Arthur Guinness Fund, which Roche says helped him to make Open Window market-ready.
Also crucial were the results of an independent five year study on the efficacy of Open Window. They showed the technology significantly reduced anxiety, depression and stress among patients in traumatic and isolated environments.
The technology works through a tablet, TV screen or projector and each patient is given an account to which their family has access to post messages and photos. In addition, patients can browse a range of (specially commissioned) images from photos of nature to contemporary artworks to create a virtual window on the world.
“You might think they could do this from the web, but a lot of what’s there isn’t suitable,” Roche says. “You need images that resonate with their experience of their situation and people are often too debilitated to do much.
“They can access Open Window just by touching the screen. In addition there is a clinical component to the image selection with input from psychologists and the medical team,” he adds.
“Although the product has been successfully tested on patients suffering from very severe conditions, this is an adaptable system. We have installed Open Window in five nursing homes in Ireland and are currently in talks with the US navy for a related. application.”