Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital noise is top complaint for just about everyone: What to do

Hospitals are notoriously noisy places, from beeping machines to overhead announcements. That noise level can be distracting and annoying for not just patients, but staff members and visitors, too. 

In fact, hospital noise is the top complaint among patients, staff and visitors, according to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey.

A hospital’s score on the HCAHPS survey is directly tied to reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), so cutting down on noise levels can significantly impact reimbursement for your organization.

Healthcare Finance News cites equipment alarms as major sources of noise, since they go off not only when a patient’s condition changes, but also when batteries are low.

Bedside alarms go off 133 times a day on average, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Only 15% of alarms were considered clinically relevant, according to a study in the Critical Care Medicine journal. And while doctors and nurses may be able to filter out which alarms need a response, patients usually don’t know. This can cause patients to think they’re being ignored or in danger, which isn’t conducive to a restful, healing environment.

There are more problems than just machines, however. Hospitals are inherently busy places, and the sounds of people coming and going can echo down hallways and into patient rooms.

All this noise isn’t just annoying to patients – it can negatively affect their health. Getting inadequate or interrupted sleep can raise blood pressure, impact wound healing and even make patients more sensitive to pain.

Noise-reduction strategies

Luckily, there are ways to cut down on the constant noise. One strategy is to use different materials in flooring and walls when building new facilities or renovating old ones. Most hospitals have hard floors that increase noise, so using materials that can dampen the sound, but are still easily cleaned can help alleviate some of that noise.

If a full redesign isn’t in the cards for your organization, try:

  • instituting quiet hours during evenings, where staff members keep their voices lowered and doors can be closed
  • limiting the number of times someone goes into a patient’s room to check vitals during the night
  • replacing overhead paging systems with wireless headsets or pagers, and
  • giving patients earplugs to help them block out the noise when they sleep.

Spending money on noise-reduction initiatives can increase satisfaction scores and boost your hospital’s bottom line in the long run, so it’s worth the investment.

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