Why hospital alarms are getting a redesign

An eclectic group of researchers, musicians, designers and other experts is working together to redesign hospital alarms and reduce noise, according to The New York Times.

The group is collaborating with device manufacturers and hospitals to make alarms quieter, combine alarms with visual cues and develop a new standard expected to launch early next year. Leading the group is Dr. Judy Edworthy, a professor of applied psychology at Britain's University of Plymouth who has been called the "godmother of alarms." Yoko Sen, a musician who launched a startup to create new tones for home heart monitors, is also part of the group.

Studies have revealed hospitals regularly exceed the noise levels set by the World Health Organization. Much of that noise is due to alarms, which contribute to patient delirium and staff burnout.

The group is looking to replace the current standards for medical device alarm sounds with "auditory icons," or sounds representative of their functions. A whistling teakettle signals a rise in temperature, and a pulsating heartbeat sound indicates critical organ functions. Data demonstrate clinicians can quickly learn and respond to the sounds, Dr. Edworthy said.

Click here for more information on the group's innovations.

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