Noise-reduction company branches out into nursing efficiency product

By Polo Rocha

Quietyme’s quest to reduce noise in hospitals has led to a new product aimed at cutting down the time nurses spend “running around and communicating.”

The Madison startup’s fist-sized cubes would help patients reach a hospital staffer to assist with non-medical support like housekeeping or bringing food. CEO John Bialk said this would ensure nurses focus more on patient care rather than connecting patients with the appropriate staffer.

“We’re turning [nurses] into messengers, and that occupies anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of their day,” Bialk said.

Each side of the cube, Bialk said, will represent a different non-medical need for patients, who’ll flip the cube to the side they need to get the appropriate staffer in the room. When patients flip the cube, a timer will start to track the response time, helping hospitals figure out right away whether they’re responding to needs efficiently rather than waiting for a patient review weeks later.

Donna Katen-Bahensky, a Quietyme adviser who was the president and CEO of UW Hospitals and Clinics, said she would have “loved to have” the cube available during her career.

“It’s just not practical to think that a nurse can take every call and deal with it equally and in such a short time,” she said. “You want them to spend their time with patient care.”

Bialk’s company has gotten national coverage for its initial product, which includes a sensor that monitors noise levels in hospitals, apartments and hotels. Bialk, a former landlord, thought the product might help property managers dealing with noise disputes, but most of his business so far has come from hotels and hospitals who depend on customer satisfaction.

The key is in the hardware that Bialk and his team developed, which can include several sensors like one that monitors the temperature of pipes so they don’t freeze in the winter.

The cube, Bialk said, works off that same hardware and didn’t take much additional development, which is what he says when some investors tell him to focus on his original noise product. Others, he says, have told him to drop the noise product and focus on the cube instead.

“I don’t see this as a separate product,” Bialk said. “I see this as an evolution of a product we already have. It just comes with so many more benefits. The intention was to reduce noise, but not only did it do that, it did three or four other things that were also beneficial.”

Bialk is finalizing details on a pilot test later this year at a hospital, whose executives interrupted Bialk to say they would “take it” as he was pitching the new product.

Nurses are ready and willing to benefit from technologies that “transform and innovate the delivery of nursing care,” wrote Pamela Cipriano before she became the president of the American Nurses Association.

“Process-transforming technologies improve efficiency by removing nurses from unnecessary tasks and reducing waste,” she wrote. “Returning time to the nurse means more direct care time and ultimately safer care.”

Hospitals, meanwhile, could see the cube leading to improved patient satisfaction ratings on the federal government’s “H-caps” surveys, said Katen-Bahensky. Those surveys, which are posted online, ask about cleanliness, responsiveness, communication and other factors such as noise — one reason why hospitals turn to Quietyme’s original product or to acoustic consultants.

“If done right, this could really make a big difference for the hospitals,” Katen-Bahensky said.

But Bialk isn’t just looking at U.S. hospitals to launch his new product; he’s making a significant push in India, with three staffers there. His interest in India started when he got a LinkedIn message saying his noise monitoring system is much needed in the country’s hospitals.

The original product hasn’t been as popular in India, as hospitals there don’t see a clear return on investment, unlike U.S. hospitals, whose patient satisfaction ratings can drop if they’re too loud.

Instead, Indian hospitals have been more interested in implementing the cube, as some of them have antiquated nurse calling systems. The response there, Bialk said, has been “unprecedented.”

“When we went to the trade shows, this stole the show,” Bialk said.