Hospitals can be made quieter

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This BBC report informs us that hospitals can become quieter. Anyone who has been in a hospital–and I have spent decades working in them–knows that despite signs encouraging quiet, they have become noisier. And studies document that, too.

But with a little effort, they can be made quieter.

Most people aren’t aware of major efforts–coordinated over the last several years and involving specialty societies and expert groups setting goals and developing standards to be implemented by hospitals, health care professionals, emergency services responders, and an informed public–that have dramatically improved medical care and patient outcomes for serious medical problems. When someone calls 911 to report a heart attack or stroke, an entire team is mobilized to treat the patient with clot-busting drugs as quickly as possible, ideally within only 60 minutes of the event. These “Code White”, “Code Stroke”, or “Stroke Attack” programs mean that the patient usually walks out of the hospital not only alive but with minimal or even no residual effects from the heart attack or stroke.

If the health care system can organize itself to treat these serious medical problems so quickly that the patients recover without harm, it should be able to work towards making hospitals and other health care facilities quieter. This isn’t rocket science. It’s basic acoustic engineering.

Members of The Quiet Coalition also serve on committees for the Facilities Guidance Institute, which sets standards for health care facilities. There are guidelines and standards for noise levels. The next edition of the guidelines, set to be published in 2022, will address the noise issue more vigorously.

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