Author Archives: Matt Nees

Let Them Rest: How Hospitals Can Help Their Patients Sleep

I recently was informed of an interesting video through the worthwhile “Making Hospitals Quiet” LinkedIn group, called Creating Quiet to Improve Patient Outcomes by Gary Madaras, PhD. In his presentation, Madaras discusses how noise in hospitals negatively impacts patient recovery and how hospitals can start making their hospitals more acoustically comfortable.

First, he explains how noise negatively impacts patient recovery by causing:

  • less sleep and lower sleep quality
  • agitation and non-compliance
  • poorer communication with caregivers
  • higher pain medication usage, slower healing
  • greater fall risk
  • longer length of stay
  • greater 30 day readmission rates

I knew hospital noise negatively affected patient sleep and thus recovery, but it never occurred to me that sleep deprivation can be the cause of so many other measurable problems for patients and hospitals. For example, I never made the connection that tired patients would be more inclined to fall over and hurt themselves or to utilize more medication.

patient privacy resting

Madaras also goes into the negative financial effects to hospitals and caregivers due to increased noise levels, focusing primarily on HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems). The HCAHPS survey is given to patients at the end of their stay and the federal government uses the results to help allocate Medicare funding (hospitals that score better get more money). One of the questions on the survey is:

During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Usually
  • Always

The feds determine success on this question by what percentage of people select “Always,” and as you might guess, this is one of the questions where hospitals usually get their lowest scores. Hospitals need to obtain at least 50% of respondents answering “Always” in each area surveyed to receive achievement points for full Medicare funding. Another financial concern Madaras mentions that I hadn’t considered is that for every 1% decrease in a hospital’s patient satisfaction, there is a 5% increase in the probability of malpractice suits.

Madaras goes on to talk about how silence is not the goal of a hospital – a completely silent hospital would not only be eerie and isolating for patients, but any inevitable loud noise that occurred in the environment would sound much louder because there would be no background noise to cover it up. These types of unavoidable noises would startle patients and make them more likely to wake up. As the great nurse Florence Nightingale herself once said,of one thing you may be certain, that anything which wakes a patient suddenly out of his sleep will invariably put him into a state of greater excitement, do him more serious, aye, and lasting mischief, than any continuous noise, however loud.”

Thus the goal is not to make the environment “silent” but to make it seem quiet by having the “good” noises in a hospital outnumber the “bad” ones. In Madaras’s words, “the goal is to create a uniform consistent background ambiance that is soothing and slightly louder than the unavoidable and bothersome noises.”

Sound masking can help create this uniform consistent background ambiance for hospitals. Sound masking is the process of adding a low level, unobtrusive background sound to an environment to cover up excess speech noise, making the affected environment more comfortable, private, and free of excess noise distractions. Loudspeakers that emit the noise are placed in the ceiling tiles in patient rooms and nursing stations, making it easier for patients to get rest. Hundreds of hospitals use sound masking for this purpose, including Wentworth Douglass Hospital and Florida Hospital.

Hospitals aren’t the only healthcare applications for sound masking technology. Pharmacies use it to keep patient prescription and insurance information private at the pharmacy desk. Doctor’s and dentist’s offices use it to protect speech privacy in the offices to make their patients more comfortable and comply with HIPAA regulations. In fact, I recently saw our emitters in my own doctor’s office. Some healthcare providers are using it in other ways as well – Summa Health Systems uses it in their on-site call center.

Madaras does not discuss sound masking in the video, but I was pleasantly surprised he discussed it in the video’s comments section as one tool in a hospital administrator’s toolbox for decreasing noise interruptions and helping patients sleep.

– Mark Hughes

Best of show infocomm 2013

Qt Conference Room Edition Wins 3 Best of InfoComm Awards

Earlier this month our new product, the Qt Conference Room Edition, won 3 Best of Show Awards at InfoComm 2015:

The Qt Conference Room Edition is specifically designed to protect the speech privacy of conversations in all conference and board rooms. It consists of a control module, two lighted privacy signs, and a series of direct-field sound masking emitters. When a room occupant turns on the easy-to-use control module inside of the conference room, it powers the sound masking emitters placed in the ceiling just outside of the conference room. These emitters add a low level of background sound making human speech less intelligible. Lighted privacy signs indicate the system is running, letting conference room occupants know their conversations are being protected.

infocomm awards

InfoComm itself was hugely successful for the product and for Cambridge Sound Management in general. A lot of great traffic and even better conversations. We’re looking forward to next year and an even more successful InfoComm. See you in Vegas!


Solving Your Office Noise Problem

As a facility manager you strive to create a more productive and enjoyable workplace for your colleagues and visitors to your business. What would you say is the one factor that negatively affects workers’ perceptions of the workplace more than any other? Maybe the office temperature, or perhaps the workspaces’ visual aesthetics? Nope.

The answer actually relates to workplace acoustics. According to a recent survey of more than 25,000 workers in more than 2,000 buildings, lack of speech privacy is the environmental factor with which workers are by far most dissatisfied.

What is speech privacy? Simply put, it’s the inability of an unintended listener to understand outside conversations. People with a lack of speech privacy overhear conversations they shouldn’t and are concerned that their own conversations may be overheard by others.

This is understandably annoying to employees, and is often embarrassing as well. For example, in a recent New York Times article on office overcrowding, an employee remarked that many of his employees overheard him on the phone canceling a client meeting due to a private medical issue.

You can read the whole article here.

Overheard Information: An Overlooked Corporate Security Threat

Last week, published an article from Cambridge Sound Management CEO Christopher Calisi wherein he discussed the fact that many companies have implemented the proper safeguards to ensure their physical and IT security, but are ignoring a key cause of security breaches and data leaks — our voices.

Every day, sensitive information on pending acquisitions, stocks and employee relations is discussed in boardrooms, offices and conference rooms around the country. More often than not, the information shared within the four walls of a boardroom is not meant to be heard by anyone who isn’t present for the conversation. Think of it like Las Vegas – what happens there, should stay there. But, unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

Calisi is right. A recent Career Builder/Harris Poll survey found that a whopping 53% of employees have overheard sensitive company information at work that wasn’t intended for their ears. And where do the most sensitive company discussions take place? Generally, in conference rooms and board rooms.Corporate Security Threat

What can companies do about the problem? Calisi provides a few options, including creating designated safe rooms at the office, taking extremely sensitive meetings and conversations off-site, and of course, utilizing sound masking technology:

Adding technology that injects an unobtrusive background sound to an environment to cover up unwanted noise can actually work just as well and cost less money than trying to soundproof a room through physical means. Placing sound masking devices or systems outside of a conference room, an executive’s office or even throughout an open office space drastically reduces the distance where human speech is intelligible, allowing for increased protection around sensitive information.

Corporate Security Threat

The new Qt Conference Room Edition


Not coincidentally, Cambridge Sound Management has recently developed a product, the Qt Conference Room Edition, that can help companies ensure that conversations held in these rooms are protected. This product can help companies ensure that “word of mouth” isn’t the cause of the next big data breach.