The Role of Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) in a Quieter Hospital Environment: Less Noise Promotes Healing and Patient SatisfactionThe Health Forum Leadership Center’s most recent White Paper Update featured a patient satisfaction paper entitled Hospital Noise and the Patient Experience: Seven Ways to Create and Maintain a Quieter Environment.
The paper is authored by Susan Mazer, President and CEO of Healing HealthCare Systems, Inc. I worked with Susan in my past experience at Skylight Healthcare with the ACCESS Interactive Patient System and continue to be impressed with the relaxation programming her company developed as an alternative to hospital television. This programming combines music with images of nature and has been shown to reduce the amount of requested pain medication, improve restfulness and sleep quality and induce relaxation.
In this latest whitepaper, Susan brings up an interesting question you may not often consider:
How does your hospital sound? Or, how noisy is it?Susan’s view is that a commitment to provide exemplary care must include all facets of the patient experience – and the sounds that resonate throughout your hospital facility can contribute to the suffering of patients and heighten patient family anxiety.
These views are confirmed by several studies Susan cites, including a “2008 study of noise in the intensive care unit, verifying that patients were disturbed and distracted mainly due to noise from the nurses’ station, visitors, and other non-clinically relevant events. (Akansel N, 2008). In another study that looked at obstacles to nurses’ providing the best care, noise was listed among other environmental stressors (Gurses & Carayon, 2009).”
Hospital sounds can be huge environmental stressors. Of course, not all sounds can be avoided, but Susan recommends reviewing the entire make up of the “sound environment” in your facility, including both casual and confidential conversations between and among patients, staff, and visitors, as well as the sounds of slammed doors, carts that are in need of repair, phones, beepers, buzzers, and paging. Then, determine which of these sounds might be reduced or eliminated, creating less noise and a quieter hospital environment.
In reviewing the accumulation of noise sources in hospitals, I was struck with the simple ways a Real-time Location System can make an impact in several key areas: reducing phone calls, beepers, overhead paging, casual conversations about equipment availability/location, and equipment alarms that indicate something in need of repair.
RTLS can be a catalyst for changing staff practices. With equipment outfitted with an RTLS tag, or personnel wearing “smart” RTLS badges, these systems can proactively provide the actual location of needed equipment or personnel via a computerized mapping system. Staff can be self-sufficient and quietly make these requests with no need for phone calls, beepers or overhead paging. Hospital staff can use any network-connected device to locate a particular piece of equipment or person.
The best RTLS user interfaces are intuitive, offering simple, one-click searching capability. With the selection made, a facility-specific map appears pinpointing the location or status of the asset or person. Used in this way, the frequency of use of phone calls, beepers and overhead paging systems for issues related to equipment can be eliminated or drastically reduced.
The same noise-reducing principle applies to equipment repair challenges. In certain equipment, a malfunction initiates an audio alarm, which may continue beeping until the machine is fixed. Using RTLS tags with programmable status switches, clinical personnel can instantly alert biomedical personnel to something in need of repair. Not only do these repair notification alerts happen in real-time (and silently), they provide maintenance/repair personnel the exact location of the equipment in need of pick up. This can save hours, even days, in both the time equipment might waste on the hospital floor unreported and not being useful as well as the time repair staff spends searching for it.
Another benefit of RTLS in reducing noise comes from using these systems for automated workflow management. In one study, our partner, PCTS, demonstrated that using RTLS for operating room workflow management significantly reduced inter-departmental phone calls by 82%, creating a noticeably quieter operating room and enhancing the healing environment.
This video from Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth entitled Quiet: Promoting Healing and Patient Satisfaction does a great job outlining a problem many don’t even know is one, and highlights some innovative approaches to reducing hospital noise.
And, check out Ambree Presentations for what I think are the most endearing educational poster displays I’ve seen to heighten awareness about reducing noise levels, hand-washing, no smoking and patient confidentiality. The image at the top of this blog post features the charming “spokesmodel” from the “Shh Nurse” poster display series.
I’d love to hear how all this sounds to you, and whether you’ve asked yourself: how does my hospital sound and how can a proactive asset tracking system using RTLS help promote a more peaceful, quieter hospital healing environment?
Image Credit: Ambree Presentations, Shh Nurse C