Quiet helps patients heal – You can help make our health system quieter

Quietness in and around patient rooms has been the lowest-rated item for the U-M Health System since we began measuring inpatient satisfaction through Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) in 2006. In fact, only 42 percent of our patients said their rooms were always kept quiet at night, lagging behind the state hospital average of 55 percent and the national average of 57 percent.

A noisy environment doesn’t just make patients unhappy – it can affect those of us who work with and near patients too. A 2005 study by U-M researchers found a direct correlation between sound decibel levels in work environments and employee blood pressure levels. The study also found that sudden peak noises caused increased heart rates. Quietness at night is also one of eight HCAHPS measures that will impact UMHHC’s reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare funding.

This January, the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers launched a campaign to increase quietness, not only to enhance our patient care experience, but also to improve working conditions for all of us. You can now see items from our Hospital Quietness Awareness Campaign throughout UMHHC – posters, visual displays and noise meters in hospital hallways and waiting areas to help remind patients and staff to be aware of excessive noise levels.

Recent efforts of this initiative include:

We plan to add more noise tracking devices in UMHHC in the near future

• Replacing pillow speakers with headphones and ear buds in all semi-private rooms so patients can listen to their television without disturbing others.
• Providing patients with sleep aids such as ear plugs.
• Fixing noisy equipment like squeaky wheels on carts.
• Piloting sound-absorbing materials and noise tracking meters on CVC 5, UH 5A, UH 7A, and UH 7B. We plan to expand these efforts more in the near future.

Additionally, UMHHC recently partnered with UHC’s (University HealthSystem Consortium) HCAHPS Improvement Collaborative. The collaborative consists of different health systems working together to improve quietness, cleanliness and other patient satisfaction measures.

We are already beginning to see positive results of our efforts, but we need your help! All of us can contribute to making our hospital quieter thereby ensuring better working conditions for our employees and ideal patient care experiences for those we serve.

Here are a few reminders to contribute toward a culture of quiet on behalf of our patients and families:

• Keep hallway conversation to a minimum, especially at night.
• Encourage patients and staff to respect others by turning down the volume on cell phones, televisions, radios, pagers and other devices.
• Consider changing pager alerts to the “vibrate” setting.
• Close doors quietly.
• Minimize cell phone conversations in hospital hallways and waiting rooms and encourage others to do the same.
• Try to wear soft sole shoes to minimize hallway noise outside patient rooms.
• Place a work order through Support Services to have noisy carts, doors and other items repaired.

In the future, UMHS will increase the number of private patient rooms, expand sound-masking efforts to improve acoustics, and reduce the amount of equipment false alarms.

With all of us working together, we will improve our patients’ overall experience, and in particular, their perceptions of a quiet place for health care.

Suggestions: If you have a suggestion about how to contribute to a quieter and better patient care experience, contact UMHS Service Excellence at service_excellence@med.umich.edu.

For more information about the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, visit: http://www.med.umich.edu/i/quality/reports/patients/hcahps/index.html.

Here is some of our latest data on noise levels at UMHHC:

Thanks and Go Blue!

Tony Denton, Executive Director of University Hospitals and Chief Operating Officer, UMHHC

Cassandra Willis-Abner, Director of Service Excellence, UMHHC