Healthcare leaders, experts team up to design noise-free hospitals of tomorrow

Noise pollution in hospitals is considered an under-the-radar threat to patient safety, but experts are working to design the hospital of the future--a silent one.

A growing movement brings together experts both within and outside of healthcare, from hospital leaders to acousticians and even musicians, according to Quartz. The team works to reduce noise levels wherever possible, thinking outside the box in many cases. For example, wearables, which are poised to inundate healthcare in the coming years, could replace noisy monitors to silently alert nurses when a patient’s condition changes. Their vision would also incorporate private waiting rooms for surgical patients and ambient music in place of televisions, not unlike efforts to reduce anxiety levels for autistic patients.  

Considerable previous work has gone into reducing noise pollution from alarms, but that only partially addresses the problem, according to the article; research from Johns Hopkins University indicates patients are far more disturbed by the sound of other patients who are in pain.

The movement is part of a larger shift in how hospitals think about design, according to Nick Dawson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Sibley Innovation Hub. The shift doesn’t come down to one particular factor, Dawson told Quartz.

“Some organizations are motivated by revenue streams from intellectual property,” he said, while “some are looking at it as a way to mitigate HCAHPS [Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems]. And some are looking at it and saying, ‘There’s this untapped voice of the patient out there and we need to re-tailor our business toward them.’”

Evidence indicates that, as healthcare becomes increasingly outcomes-focused, facility design can affect patient outcomes as well, FierceHealthcare previously reported.