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Noisy Hospitals Face Threat of Decreased Federal Compensation

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Dec 2017
Print article
Image: Stanford is just one hospital trying to keep noise down (Photo courtesy of Stanford University).
Image: Stanford is just one hospital trying to keep noise down (Photo courtesy of Stanford University).
A new review shows that hospitals in the United States are attempting different approaches to bring restful repose to their patients.

The new review, presented by BeoGrin Consulting (Baltimore, MD, USA), summarizes the limited number of studies currently available on hospital noise, and discusses the different approaches health care facilities are taking in order to address several issues raised by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS, Baltimore, MD, USA) Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, in which noise was claimed to be the top complaint of patients, staff, and visitors.

The constant beeps, whirrs, and alarms in a hospital can ascend to a cacophony that produces anything but a relaxing, restful environment. Noises can emanate from a variety of sources at the bedside or in the ward, including HVAC noise from required high air flows, equipment noise from machines such as MRI units, alarms from equipment at patient bedsides, pneumatic tube lab transport systems, and PA systems. Equipment alarms are the most egregious source, and although they are designed to alert staff of changes in the patient’s medical condition, many also sound when medication needs to be changed or when battery conditions are low.

One of the results of the HCAHPS survey is that hospitals are implementing noise control programs, which focus on two categories, engineering and administrative interventions. Engineering interventions aim to find ways to quiet the room, such as installing acoustical absorption materials along the walls and ceiling to dampen the noise level. Administrative interventions focus on changing behaviors, such as “quiet hours” when doors are closed and voices are kept low. The review was presented at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), held in December 2017, in New Orleans (LA, USA).

“In 2006, the federal government introduced HCAHPS as a standardized survey to measure patient perception of the quality of care received. The lowest score received by US hospitals in aggregate was the single acoustics question, which asks whether patients found their room sufficiently quiet to allow for sleep at night,” said review presenter Ilene Busch-Vishniac, PhD, of BeoGrin Consulting. “Faced with a loss of money, many hospitals are looking for ways to address noise levels in a way that patients can see as an improvement.”

One of the biggest changes in hospitals during the past 10 years has been to shift patient alarms from solely sounding at the patient’s bedside to also alerting a central monitor at a nursing station. This approach improves the ability of staff to identify and respond to alarms set at a reduced volume.

Related Links:
BeoGrin Consulting
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service


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