by Greg Coudriet CTS, INCE, LEED AP BD+C, Principal Consultant, The Sextant Group

Acoustical conditions can profoundly impact the quality of patient care in healthcare facilities. A well-designed hospital will improve patient recovery rates by providing quiet and restful patient rooms that are free from disruptions by rolling carts, paging systems, and other activities in the bustling, 24/7 facility that surrounds them.

Meanwhile, sound isolation must be judiciously implemented to protect patient privacy during discussion with and among healthcare professionals. Finally, the acoustical environment must support a high level of speech intelligibility from the facility’s paging system, while minimizing disturbances to patient rooms. Other issues include the impact of structural vibration on sensitive medical imaging equipment and the impact that hospital-generated environmental noise has on the surrounding community.

The issues described above have been known to professional acousticians for some time. However, recent financial pressures have placed a renewed focus on evidence based design and patient outcomes among healthcare providers and policy makers. The impact of acoustics on patient care has been at the forefront of this effort. This is evidenced through new fines for HIPAA violations, which include overheard conversations. The Facility Guidelines Institute’s Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities, which is compulsory in most states, also includes new acoustic requirements for patient privacy and restful recovery. Finally, acoustical requirements have been included in the USGBC’s new LEED for Healthcare rating system

Healthcare facility designers and operators are well-served by consultants who appreciate how these new regulations can guide the creation of cost-effective acoustical environments that improve patient privacy and outcomes.