Creating a Sound Plan for Reducing Noise and Increasing HCAHPS

Oct 17, 2019

hospital sleep

Excessive sound is one of the largest issues for healthcare facilities around the world, leading to three specific problems that most organizations face: 

1. Patient satisfaction 

2. Privacy 

3. Productivity 

These three “P’s” are the cornerstones of every healthcare facility, and noise pollution is a determent to every one of them. Sound carries in large buildings. Combine that simple acoustic principle with the fact that facilities host a vast array of people at any given time — physician, nurses, patients and visitors, among many others  and the result is an intrusive mixture of voices, sounds, etc. 

This excessive amount of noise can create an unpleasant environment for patients to rest, which is one of the most common complaints that patients have. This can lead to the inevitable decrease in HCAHPS scores. Sound carrying throughout a facility also has two other side effects: 

1. Private conversations can be heard in hallways and adjacent rooms, which can lead to unintentional HIPAA violations. 

2. Excessive noise can distract hospital employees and cause them to be less productive throughout the day.  

These three concerns have been enough to cause the healthcare industry to invest heavily in soundproofing and controlling the acoustics within hospitals.  

Following Evidence-Based Practices

Plenty of research has been conducted on how to reduce noise levels in healthcare facilities, and studies have shown that the ceiling is the best place to start. The ceiling is the one place in a hospital that is free from foot traffic, outlets and necessary hospitals devices, which makes it the perfect place for tiles that block, cover and absorb sound. The ceiling also is a good place to setup sound-masking or white noise systems, which prevent sound from carrying throughout a facility. The sounds of the systems are barely audible and still work to mask unwanted noise from room to room. 

Research has also shown that custom wall panels can help dampen sound in healthcare facilities. While there is little space in patient rooms for wall panels, they can be hung in hallways and all throughout common areas to prevent sounds from travelling to patient rooms. These studies concluded that when wall panels were installed, the decrease in sound was comparable to that generated by a car slowing from 80 mph to 60 mph. 

Certain types of flooring can also help reduce noise pollution in facilities. There are hardwood floors that can reduce the sound of footprints hitting them or carts rolling on them, and they are far easier to clean and keep disinfected than installing carpet, which is known to trap bacteria and dirt. 

Architectural Changes

For new facilities being built, there are many opportunities through the design process that can help cut down on noise: 

- Placing a heavier emphasis on creating single patient rooms 

- Locating patient rooms as far away from common areas and entrances/exits as possible 

- Staggering doors to patient rooms so that they are not located directly across from one another (preventing voices from carrying from one room to another 

- Decentralizing nursing stations to prevent large groups of employees from congregating and talking

Fill Rooms with Furniture 

Empty rooms create spaces where sound can easily travel. The more items that are placed in rooms, hallways, etc., the greater the sound-dampening qualities of the space will be. From furniture to decorations, art and other wall/freestanding fixtures, everything that is placed within a facility can help decrease excessive noise and increase the patient experience. 


Looking to improve the patient experience even more? Invest in custom whiteboards to place at your facility!