Hospitals are intended to be places of healing, recovery, and rest. But walk into any busy hospital ward, and listen: the experience is usually anything but calming.
The typical cacophony of noise in a hospital includes televisions, phones, intercoms, and constant beeps, chirps, hums, and alarms from medical devices. All of which creates stress and increases the torment for people in pain.
And for hospital staff, a phenomenon known as “alarm fatigue” can set in: the incessant, routine noise of hospital machinery leads to delayed responses to audio warnings for actual emergencies, which can have a negative impact on patients’ health and safety. Remember the boy who cried wolf?
If you haven’t been to a hospital in a while (and we hope you haven’t), here’s how it can sound. The principles of design thinking might provide a solution. How might we use sound design as a step toward creating a more pleasant and stress-reducing environment for both patients and hospital staff?
Check out a fascinating article from Quartz on this very challenge: a look at the ubiquitous din of noise in hospitals, and how it can lead to alarm fatigue and patient stress, even putting patients’ lives in danger. The article includes a video, The Future of Hospital Sound, that gives insights into how paying attention to the details of an experience can pay off, and how a musician examines ways to make the "noisescape" of a patient's room more harmonious. If her efforts were to set the new standard, here’s what the hospital of the future could sound like.