In her 1898 book "Notes on Nursing: What it is and What It Is Not." Florence Nightingale has this to say on the topic of noise: "Unnecessary noise is the most cruel abuse of care which can be inflicted on either the sick or the well." And that was before the constant hum and beeps of modern medical technology that fill today's hospitals. Although I'm sure these forms of noise would fall under Nightingale's "necessary" category were she alive today, research suggests that there is some truth to her overall premise. Noise does not help patients heal.

In 2005, a study conducted at Johns Hopkins Hospital showed that noise levels had steadily increased over the past 45 years during daytime and nighttime hours, and the increase negatively affected patients, visitors and hospital staff. The effect of noise on healing is something that many patients are paying attention to these days. In fact, Yelp recently added health care data to 26,000 profiles of health care businesses listed on its site, and noise levels inside the patient room is one of those data points.

Fortunately, the design community is listening. The Facility Guidelines Institute added a new section on acoustics to its Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities. In our 2014 Health Facility Design Survey, 71 percent of respondents said that over the next five years, noise-reduction construction materials would be incorporated into design features at their health facilities. Sixty percent of respondents said they are incorporating noise-reducing materials into patient room design.

Ms. Nightingale would be proud.


View survey results