This is the fourth post in the Noise Monitoring blog series.
What are the best ways to reduce noise in hospitals? There are a wide variety of existing possible solutions, from providing patients with earplugs and eye masks to enforced quiet times. Here are Schneider Electric’s top five strategies for hospital noise reduction.
#1: Firstly, it’s necessary to evaluate acoustic design. As we discussed in a previous blog, the hard surfaces that hospital floors and walls are made of tend to bounce sound around, instead of muffling it. By integrating sound dampening surfaces that are appropriately sterile and washable, and creating ventilation systems which better muffle sound, some changes in design can do a lot to quiet down the hospital atmosphere. This broad category of actions also includes smaller, but equally impactful, measures like providing headphones for entertainment systems in patient rooms.
#2: Hospitals should focus heavily on integrating noise monitoring solutions within the BMS infrastructure. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient to try to create separate systems for noise management and building management. The ideal solution, then, is to simply combine the two. A good solution will mesh easily with an existing BMS as part of the intelligent healthcare facilities infrastructure which we’ve blogged about extensively before. This addition makes the infrastructure more comprehensive, and means that noise monitoring technology will be user friendly for staff accustomed to the existing systems—a reciprocal relationship which will lead to the increased effectiveness of both.
#3: It’s also good practice to centralize monitoring systems. The implementation of centralized nurse call systems is already part of our recommendations for an intelligent infrastructure. As we just discussed, integrating noise monitoring into this kind of existing infrastructure is ideal, but centralized systems have benefits outside of ease of integration, too. They make it simple for hospital staff to respond to noise problems as quickly as possible. A central alert system means that all staff can see where they might be needed to address noise concerns, and can dispatch the closest staff member to deal with the issue immediately, ensuring the greatest possible degree of patient safety and maximizing staff productivity.
#4: Sound-mapping the hospital can help lead to increased quiet. Effective work toward reducing noise first requires knowing where that noise is coming from. It would be inefficient and time-consuming to work to implement noise-reducing actions in areas where there’s already relative quiet, and a sound map can show hospital staff where they should focus their efforts.
In addition, higher levels of noise may be more tolerable in some areas of hospitals than others. The hush required in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a very different sound level from that which is expected, and accepted, in a busy and quick-paced emergency room. Sound-mapping allows noise problems to be more effectively addressed on a by-location basis.
#5: Finally, changing staff workflow can significantly reduce noise. Hallway chatter from nurses and doctors makes up a significant part of the hospital cacophony; if hospitals can rearrange patterns of movement to streamline staff flow, they can go a long way toward quieting down the hallways.
Want more detail about these top 5 strategies? Read about them in our noise monitoring white paper!