New St. Paul's

Virtual reality sheds light on the subject

From building structure to department locations, down to individual room design and finishes – to design a hospital, you start with the big picture and then work down to the smaller details.

The new St. Paul’s Hospital is currently at the 90-per-cent design stage, with teams working to confirm the final details of each room. At the new hospital, there are over 300 rooms that require tailored lighting and equipment boom set ups – including surgical and procedure rooms, patient rooms, exam rooms, resuscitation room, and even the autopsy suite.

To find optimal lighting placement for the most complex procedure and operating rooms, the new St. Paul’s Hospital Project Team is turning to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for help.

Understanding procedural rooms

Procedural and operating rooms require ambient lighting that is fixed into the ceiling and surgical lighting that is ceiling mounted onto movable arms. But these lights are competing for ceiling real estate. There are also other ceiling-mounted equipment booms, rails for patient lifts, and ventilation systems to keep air above the operating table sterile.

The challenge is finding the right lighting placements given everything in the room – from other booms, monitors, equipment, and carts to the personnel involved with the procedure, like physicians, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and even students.

“We want to make the lighting as coordinated and user-friendly as possible while ensuring good lines of sight and optimal lighting for each procedure,” explains Josh Chipperfield, a senior project and change management lead for the New St. Paul’s Hospital and Health Campus Project. “It’s important to have high-quality lighting in procedural rooms for the safety and comfort of staff and patients.”

Finding optimal placement

Design sessions were held for a variety of surgical and procedural rooms such as ORs, emergency resuscitation, endoscopy, and bronchoscopy rooms.

Both AR and VR were used to get feedback from staff and medical staff by bringing-to-life 2D floorplans to test lighting placement.

Using AR, a digital 3D model of the lighting equipment was viewable through a headset so that staff could manipulate the virtual lights and simulate scenarios more easily. With VR, staff were able to experience rooms as if they were standing inside them. Staff could get a better sense of the orientation or location of the lights in relation to other key pieces of equipment or the surgical table.

Not only does this help designers gain a better understanding of how equipment is manipulated and the typical workflows within the room, it helps staff provide more meaningful and specific feedback. 

Pictured is a floorplan of an OR. AR and VR help make these complicated floorplans much simpler to visualize.

Continuous collaboration and improvement

Determining the placement of the lighting is a highly collaborative process.

“We’re trying to determine the final location of the procedure room lights and booms. It’s hard to move them around once electrical and mechanical infrastructure has been installed,” says Josh. “It’s important to collaborate with the architects, the equipment vendors, and our stakeholders to determine the optimal lighting placements.”

The feedback gathered in these sessions will be carried forward into the fully built mock rooms. Mock rooms will have walls and ceilings, as well as a mixture of real and model equipment that staff will be able to physically interact with and use to run scenarios.   

It will be another opportunity to fine-tune designs to make sure we get things right.

VGH Operating Room Renewal. Source: PCL

Story by Carmela Mok