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Acoustics, Patient Care, and The Healing Environment

by Acoustics By Design on March 5, 2009

The healthcare industry is booming and your healthcare costs are rising, so what do you get out of it? Well, besides higher monthly premiums and insurance costs, you do get one thing: choice. You have the freedom to choose between everything from primary care providers to hospitals to outpatient clinics to rehabilitation centers. And this choice is driving up the competition between healthcare providers causing them to place a higher priority on, well – you – getting you and keeping you as a loyal customer, uhm… I mean patient.

One of the highest contributing factors to keeping you as a loyal patient is creating a positive healing environment for you to recover in. A good healing environment provides a restful temporary home for treatment and recovery – free from distraction and stress. So what are hospitals doing to improve the healing environment? Well, they’re listening to you and asking for input (through Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys and the like) and they’re making improvements to their service and to their facility in a way that will meet your needs. The visual signs of this trend are obvious: color schemes have gone from sterile whites to warm earth tones, lighting has gone from bright and bleak to warm and comforting, even the exterior facades of hospitals have gone from brick boxes to crystal cathedrals. But probably the most underrated change has been to hospital acoustics.

The fact that good healthcare acoustics go largely unnoticed is not necessarily a bad thing – it’s more of a natural thing. If there is poor sound isolation between exam rooms, patients do not comment on the “poor sound isolation.” Rather, they complain about the lack of privacy and confidentiality. Or if a room is overly reverberant with no acoustical absorption, patients do not complain about the “reverberation problem.” Instead, they cite a stressful environment or an inability to rest. When these types of complaints keep showing up on Press Ganey satisfaction surveys, the hospital knows it has a problem.

The hospital facility itself is a little bit like a “patient” looking for the right diagnosis. The hospital is “sick” with poor patient satisfaction surveys, and it is looking for a long term healing solution, rather than a quick, band-aid fix. In this example, the “doctor” is the architectural firm or the interior design firm that guides the hospital through its “surgery” (ie: it’s renovation or new construction).

When architects design healthcare facilities, they often put a high emphasis on creating a visually pleasing and relaxing environment: color schemes, lighting, and so on. And this is a highly important aspect of the design. But if they miss the critical component of acoustics, then they make a gross misdiagnosis of the hospital’s problem. Visual improvements tend to impress people immediately when they visit the hospital, but aural improvements (ie: properly designed acoustics) tend to impress people when they stay in the hospital. And, when all is said and done, who is the one filling out those Press Ganey satisfaction surveys? That’s right, you, the patient – the one who actually stayed there.

Acoustics By Design works with architects and healthcare officials to design acoustical solutions that dramatically improve the healing environment. We use high tech sound measurement devices and 3D predictive software to “diagnose” acoustical problems and solve them in a way that is effective and people-centered. Because when it comes to patient care, it really is all about you!

Acoustics By Design

Acoustics By Design

Acoustics By Design consultants provide acoustical consulting services to architects, engineers, facility directors, municipalities, and building owners. Our team includes acoustical consultants, acoustical engineers, noise consultants, and vibration consultants. Our firm also includes an integrated team of audio-visual consultants who design audio, video, theatrical lighting, and technical systems and integrate them with the native acoustical environment.

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