Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Patients hear as well as heal

It’s ironic, isn’t it? When you’re hospitalized, everyone tells you to get some rest. But we all know it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep (or an afternoon nap) in a hospital. Some of that is the nature of providing healthcare: tests are scheduled, assessments must be made, IVs need to be started, vitals must be checked and meds given.

But some of the noise — the part that patients really don’t understand — is avoidable. Things like loud talking and laughter in the evening. Unanswered phones, with the ring-tones set at maximum. Carts that squeak and clipboards that snap. Add to that frequent overhead paging and the possibility of a roommate with late-hour TV habits and you’ve got the recipe for a sleepless night. That’s hardly going to make for a satisfied patient.

Noise is an issue at Backus Hospital, as it is for hospitals nationwide. Here at Backus, fewer than half (46.5%) of inpatients who completed our patient experience survey last quarter answered “always” to the question: How often was the area around your room quiet at night?” More telling, that score placed Backus in the 56th percentile of 917 hospitals in the NRC+Picker database — well below other areas, where we score in the upper 90th percentiles. That means 44% of those hospitals do a better job than we do.

Our patients notice. Here are some actual comments from our HCAHPS survey. Patients were asked to name “one thing they would change about the hospital”:

  • “Have less noise in the evening”
  • “Would want a quieter room”
  • “Nurses’ station in very early morning hours should be as quiet as need be, so as not to disturb patients with laughter, etc.”
  • “More quiet nights”

(You can see all the comments on the Backus Intranet: Click Patient-Centered care under the Quick Links, and then “The Patient’s Voice” link. To read an interesting Los Angeles Times article about hospital noise, visit our blog at and click on the link provided with this story. )

When it comes to always providing a great patient experience at Backus, remember: Our patients not only heal; they hear.