Do-No-Harm Design

Maximal products that minimize risk for healthcare facilities
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Sponsored by Chicago Faucets, Inpro Corporation, and Rockfon
By Amada Voss, MPP
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Controlling Noise in Healthcare Spaces

Long-term exposure to noise has been connected to a host of negative health impacts, from sleep disturbance and annoyance to the less-studied impacts on cardiovascular health, the metabolic system, and the cognitive development of children, notes Debra Levin.2 A 2020 briefing by the European Environment Agency, titled “Health Risks Caused by Environmental Noise in Europe,” estimated that environmental noise contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease a year as well as 12,000 premature deaths.

In highly sensitive environments such as healthcare, the effect can be even more significant, aggravating patients’ health issues and impacting staff performance. With advances in material and product technology, the design community has a growing arsenal of products and solutions at their fingertips to help in the fight against noise in healthcare environments.

In her study, “Creating a Culture of Safety: Reducing Hospital Noise” , Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D., suggests a multi-disciplinary team approach in tackling noise issues. Dr. Mazer stresses that hospitals need to create a “culture of quiet.” One of the first places to strategize is evaluating how to reduce manmade sources. This includes location of nurses’ stations and non-patient areas, allowing for interaction among caregivers while keeping noise in patient rooms to a minimum. Managing and streamlining the chaotic feedback of device alarms and paging systems is also critical. Mazer recommends forming a multidisciplinary team charged with developing strategies to monitor and reduce noise.

While there are no single solutions to immediately remedy noise levels in healthcare, tackling the noise of ubiquitous privacy curtains is another tool that helps secure acoustic comfort. Sleep interruption caused by noise has a significant negative impact on health and healing. Opening and closing of privacy curtains in a patient’s room does contribute to noise levels: traditional aluminum track ranks somewhere between a busy residential road (80 dBA) and the inside of a bus (90 dBA) when decibel levels are monitored. However, new bendable track products allow for operation at a more-comfortable decibel level of conversational speech (70 dBA). Not only does the track minimize unwanted noise, it also conforms to unique designs, allowing for better control of the space and movement for care.

In her study, “Creating a Culture of Safety: Reducing Hospital Noise,”3 Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D., suggests a multidisciplinary team approach in tackling noise issues. Dr. Mazer stresses that hospitals need to create a “culture of quiet.” One of the first places to strategize is evaluating how to reduce manmade sources. This includes location of nurses’ stations and non-patient areas, allowing for interaction among caregivers while keeping noise in patient rooms to a minimum. Managing and streamlining the chaotic feedback of device alarms and paging systems is also critical. Mazer recommends forming a multidisciplinary team charged with developing strategies to monitor and reduce noise.

While there are no single solutions to immediately remedy noise levels in healthcare, tackling the noise of ubiquitous privacy curtains is another tool that helps secure acoustic comfort. Sleep interruption caused by noise has a significant negative impact on health and healing. Opening and closing of privacy curtains in a patient’s room does contribute to noise levels: traditional aluminum track ranks somewhere between a busy residential road (80 dBA) and the inside of a bus (90 dBA) when decibel levels are monitored. However, new bendable track products allow for operation at a more-comfortable decibel level of conversational speech (70 dBA). Not only does the track minimize unwanted noise, it also conforms to unique designs, allowing for better control of the space and movement for care.

END NOTES

“When and How to Wash Your Hands.” The Center for Disease Control. Accessed 9/23/2022.
Debra Levin. “Listen Up: Controlling Noise In Healthcare Spaces”. Healthcare Design. June 7, 2022 accessed on 9/22/2022.
Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. “Creating a Culture of Safety: Reducing Hospital Noise.” Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology. September/October 2012, p. 350-355. Accessed 9/22/2022.

Amanda Voss, MPP, is an author, editor, and policy analyst. Writing for multiple publications, she has also served as the managing editor for Energy Design Update.

 

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Inpro
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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in November 2022


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