Can You Hear Me Now?
A better question for those of us building hospitals—do you want to hear me now? There are two issues driving an intensified interest in acoustics right now. One is the desire to make hospitals quieter so they are a more healing environment, and the other is the continued quest to ensure patient privacy (such that everyone on the floor does not hear the specifics of Mrs. B’s knee replacement surgery).
We can do a lot within the technology of paging and nursecall systems to make calls go to the specific caregiver rather than make a racket for everyone to hear. However, when we do this, we still need to make sure that we are on the same page with the clinical staff about making critical alarms annunciated effectively. If you are the person calling for assistance, you want to reach someone quickly; but if you are the patient trying to sleep, you do not want to hear every call on the floor.
For the purpose of patient privacy, the answer is in the details of the acoustic properties of the chosen materials in the environment. Clinical staff can confer behind glass walls, where they have visibility, but with correctly specified glazing materials, cannot be heard by those outside. Necessary conversations can be contained with proper application of specified acoustical sealants and selections of wall covering materials, flooring materials, and, let us not forget, ceiling materials that have the properties of absorbing sound. As always, if we make sure that the intent is understood and the specifications for materials express that intent, we can make a difference.