Though among the most common neurological disorders in the United States, epilepsy remains a mysterious condition that, unfortunately, comes with a significant stigma for those who suffer from it, noted Josh Schoonover, MMC, PhD student in healthcare and healing environments at Arizona State University (ASU), and Jamil AlShraiky, director of healthcare initiatives, assistant professor, MArch, at ASU, during their midmorning session “Sensory-based Design & Epilepsy—Analyzing the Effects of Design on Patient Treatment and Recovery” at HEALTHCARE DESIGN.10.

Through a partnership between ASU and the Mayo Clinic, the two are researching how the built environment may affect the outcomes of epilepsy patients in epilepsy monitoring units (EMUs). EMUs are often harsh environments, where patients through varying means are caused to have seizures in order to measure the triggers and how best to promote recovery.

In response, the study looks at the patient and staff experience within the EMU as it relates to the physical environment with areas of focus including safety, family involvement, length of stay, privacy, patient and staff satisfaction, and outcomes.

The team at ASU through the Mayo Clinic’s EMU evaluated the need for a methodology regarding what instigates a seizure as well as what helps in the healing process following a seizure, hypothesizing that sensory factors affect both outcomes.

With that in mind, research focuses on how the patient room fits into the picture. For example, creating harsh lighting may push a patient into a seizing, whereas softening it could help with the healing process. Patients in the admissions process will also be questioned regarding sensory factors like smells, music, and imagery that is positive or negative to them, and that information will be compiled in a database to see what possible links may exist.

While several unknowns exist today, we can all look forward to the results of the study, which will be presented at HCD.11 in Nashville.