Musically Speaking


Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia-v2Sometimes, with all the background noise in life, we forget how powerful the simple things can be—how they can positively affect us. Like music. Intuitively, we know it can make us feel really good. But often we’re rushing around, stressed, nursing a cold maybe, and we don’t think about the power of closing our eyes and listening to an uplifting symphony…a soulful guitar riff…an incredible voice.

For those with chronic illnesses or inpatients recovering from serious trauma or surgery—music is more than a feel-good remedy. It is one of the world’s oldest medicines, having been used in healing since the beginning of time. When combined with the science of modern medicine, music can be used to help treat a wide range of conditions—brain injuries, trauma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, autism, stroke, and even pain.

But beware — the healing properties of music can cause side effects…such as a feeling of well-being, improved memory and decision-making skills, and sometimes, even less reliance on medication. And who wouldn’t want those side effects?

Soothing the Soul, Healing the Body and Mind

In a study published in JAMA in May 2013, researchers analyzed the benefits of using music with critically ill patients. Investigators found that by the fifth day of the study, patients who were given the option to listen to their preferred pieces of music, when they wanted, experienced a 36 percent decrease in anxiety levels as well as in sedation intensity and frequency. The patients in the music group received two less doses per day of sedative medication—compared with the study’s control group. Less sedation translates to fewer complications. This is a significant finding.

Other studies have demonstrated how neurological music therapy improves functional outcomes by helping to rebuild a patient’s ability to think, move, and speak. For example, therapists have used music for memory training by teaching neurology patients to remember their street addresses. For executive function training (used for patients with frontal lobe damage), they used songwriting to build abilities in decision making, organizing, and planning.

At Jefferson, we embrace using music to get people feeling better–patients and employees alike. For nearly 10 years, we’ve welcomed weekly hospital visits from volunteer performers in the WXPN Musicians On Call program. We hear from our patients and clinicians how much they love the live, in-room performances. The music takes them to a different place. And our university has its own a cappella group, a jig band, and even invites a variety of artists to perform on campus to benefit our employees and our students—especially during stressful times like the holidays or exam week!

Like Bob Marley said: “One good thing about music–when it hits you, you feel no pain.” So we are particularly excited about bringing even more feel-good music to our patients at their bedsides through a terrific partnership with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. The group has generously and exclusively provided Jefferson with professional, high definition video recordings of their best performances. Through a high-tech, high-touch interactive patient care system called the GetWellNetwork, we are able to deliver on demand Chamber Orchestra performances to our patients via their TVs—at any time, on any day.

Being in the hospital can be stressful, and sometimes the very technology we’re using to help patients get better can also be the most overwhelming part of their experience. By using an interactive patient care system to deliver music to the patient’s bedside, we’re leveraging technology to add a personal and relaxing touch that provides a source of comfort and healing for our patients. What could be better than that?

So what are some new and innovative ways you are using music to get better outcomes for your patients? Let’s all turn up the volume on what is possible. I believe our patients deserve it!