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Medical Cart Casters To Eliminate Noise

The most common complaint that hospital patients have these days is not with the hospital food. It’s with the carts that the food comes on.

Why? Because hospital dietary carts are noisy. Patients hear these carts long before they see them. They hear the familiar chattering of the casters, the rumbling of the hard wheels on hard hospital floors, the grinding of metal axles on plastic wheel cores, and the squeaking of caster components that are long overdue for a greasing.

Hospital carts, whether they are medical carts, food service delivery carts or flatbed carts, are notorious for their noise. And noise, according to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), is the top complaint among hospital patients, staff and visitors.

DANGEROUS DECIBELS

The noise levels in many hospitals are now so high that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that they exceed international recommendations. The WHO suggests that average hospital sound levels should not exceed 35 decibels, with a maximum of 40 decibels overnight.

But today, hospital noise levels sometimes hit 80 decibels—double the recommended level for overnight noise. Just to give you some context, a chainsaw produces around 80 decibels of noise.

Hospital noise is clearly a problem with patients, as evidenced by the low scores that many patients give on HCAHPS surveys. HCAHPS surveys are administered to a random sample of patients within six weeks of their discharge date. Hospitals must collect surveys throughout the month, and they must collect 300 surveys per year.

The HCAHPS survey consists of 27 questions about critical aspects of the hospital experience. One of those questions is explicitly about noise. It asks, “During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?” patients can answer “Never,” “Sometimes,” “Usually” or “Always.” Too many patients are answering “Never” and “Sometimes.” And the culprit in many cases is noisy casters on hospital carts.

But excessive hospital noise isn’t just a nuisance for patience, aggravating their stay, increasing their stress and disrupting their sleep. Hospital noise also affects patient outcomes. According to research conducted by a team from King’s College London and the University of the Arts London, coronary care patients treated during noisy periods have a higher incidence of re-hospitalization compared with patients who are treated during quieter periods.

THE CAUSE OF NOISY MEDICAL CARTS

Medical carts are noisy because they typically feature commodity casters. Cart manufacturers equip their carts with cheap casters to keep the purchase price down, but someone pays the price for these cheap casters, and that someone is the patient who must endure the noise they make.

The commodity casters on medical carts are noisy for three main reasons:

  • Wrong Tread Material: The rubber is too hard. It cannot absorb and distribute impact, making the wheels noisy when rolling.
  • Loose Raceways: Casters with loose raceways produce the chatter noise commonly associated with casters.
  • No Bearings: Most hospital carts, IV poles and mobile workstations feature casters that don’t have any bearings. Instead, the metal axle grinds on the plastic core of the wheel, producing noise.

WHAT HOSPITALS ARE DOING TO QUIET THEIR MEDICAL CARTS

Hospitals are replacing the commodity casters on their carts with casters that are engineered and manufactured to meet the exacting requirements of hospitals and healthcare facilities.

These casters feature wheels made from high-quality polyurethane, which stores and exudes energy to reduce noise-causing vibrations, and deliver a smooth and quiet ride. These casters also feature sealed bearings that distribute loads, reduce friction and reduce noise.

Hospitals typically notice a marked improvement once they replace their noisy commodity casters. The most noticeable difference is the reduced noise levels. This quickly translates into an improved patient experience, with patients experiencing less stress and agitation, and enjoying a better quality of sleep.

Better casters also eventually improve HCAHPS scores, as increasing numbers of patients check the boxes for “Usually” or “Always” when answering the survey question about how often the area around their room was quiet at night.

And the benefits of quieter casters also go home with patients, with increasing numbers of them experiencing lower incidence of re-hospitalization compared with patients who are treated in noisier facilities.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION

Most hospital administrators don’t spend much of their day thinking about casters, but plenty of the patients in their hospitals do. Hospital casters are noisy. And noisy casters create annoyed patients. But increasing numbers of hospitals and healthcare facilities are improving their patient experiences and improving patient outcomes by replacing the noisy, commodity casters on their medical carts with casters that are designed, engineered and manufactured for quiet hospital environments.

If your hospital or healthcare facility has a problem with noisy casters, read our white paper, Wheels of Fortune: How Improving the Casters in Your Healthcare Facility Reduces Noise, Enhances Patient Satisfaction, and Drives Ergonomics. Or, if you are ready to talk solutions, click below.

ELIMINATE NOISE IN YOUR MEDICAL FACILITY