POSTED: Friday, July 24, 2009

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has an answer for a common complaint from hospital patients that they can't sleep because it's too noisy.

It's a Yacker Tracker.

The noise meter, installed last August in 15 units covering all nursing stations at Moanalua Medical Center, works something like a traffic signal. A computerized light stays green until noise rises above a certain level, then a yellow warning light starts flashing.

When the sound reaches the next level, a red light signals to staff that the noise must be reduced.

“;Quietness of night”; was a major issue in a patient survey about hospital care, said Linda Puu, Kaiser director of specialty nursing.

The Moanalua hospital's quietness increased to 48.64 percent from January to April this year, up from 35 percent during the same period last year, she said. The average for hospital quietness nationwide is 50 percent, according to an Avatar survey, she said.

Kaiser also has a solution for nurses who don't like being distracted when giving patients medicine. An inch-wide reflective sash—the equivalent of a “;do not disturb”; sign—was designed for them at Kaiser Permanente's Sidney Garfield Innovation Center in Northern California. Kaiser Hawaii implemented it last August along with the noise meter.

Barring an emergency, the MedRite “;non-interruption gear”; signals everyone to leave the nurse alone until it's removed.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation found in a study that MedRite has cut nurse interruptions in half.

Puu said the error rate was reduced to zero after three years of use at the Kaiser medical center in Hayward, Calif. A nurse wearing the sash has a “;so-called sacred zone”; whenever dispensing medicine, Puu said.

She said it will be 18 months to two years before Moanalua Medical Center can compare its medication error rate with what it was previously. She couldn't say what the error rate has been. “;It's nothing to be alarmed about, but it would be nice to be a zero.”;

She said the Yacker Tracker has alerted the hospital to noisy carts and mobile intravenous poles, and they are being replaced, cleaned or lubricated to reduce noise.

The hospital also has lowered the ring tone on pagers and telephones and replaced loud, outdated printers at nursing stations with a quieter product.

“;We want to reinforce that a hospital is a healing zone,”; Puu said. “;When you go to a library or church, everybody knows to use a church voice and speak low. Somehow in a hospital, that mentality isn't there. We want to create a healing zone where everybody knows to keep their voice down.”;