Overhead music in healthcare facilities is much, much different than overhead music in retail stores or other business settings. Whether in a major hospital or local doctor's office, a healthcare facility's audio needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, many of whom are ailing, nervous, or otherwise concerned. So what do you do? Some facilities choose to do nothing - they leave their waiting rooms and corridors silent. Others intentionally choose boring, barely-noticeable tracks, hoping not to offend anyone. In either situation, facilities are missing an opportunity to use music with a purpose - calming patients and caretakers, helping staff, and easing the experience of waiting.
Can music really do all that? It's possible, with the right features and programming options. When searching for the best overhead music solution, look for these features:
1. Overhead Music Zones
Is it appropriate to play the same music throughout your facility? Perhaps, for a local practitioner. Perhaps not, for a larger facility. Consider a hospital: There are many different parts: staff-only areas, common areas like lounges and cafeterias, waiting rooms and lobbies, treatment areas, and more. Music that's appropriate in one of these areas, like the cafeteria, may not be appropriate in another, such as a waiting room.
Some situations will call for upbeat music, while others require more soothing sounds. An adaptable overhead music system will let you program music specific to zones or areas of your facility and adjust to your needs. If your office doesn't require zoned music, it's still important to consider what defines appropriate overhead music.
2. Consider Time of Day
Depending on your hours of operation, it can be important to adjust your music based on time of day. Early in the morning, as patients are just beginning their day and still feeling sleepy, consider calming, quiet music. As the mid-day hustle rolls around, your staff will probably appreciate something that's still comforting for your patients, but also a bit more upbeat and fast-paced. In the evening, if you have patients coming in after work, offer relaxing music to help them de-stress and unwind. Later at night, a return to soothing, calming music is a good choice. A good overhead music solution will have options for day-parting and complex scheduling.
3. Patient-Focused Programming
If you haven't guessed yet, one of the keys to choosing the right music is a focus on your patients. Play what your patients like, and what will keep them comfortable and comforted. What are the typical patients in your facility like? What kind of music appeals to them? Do you need to appeal to a wide variety of tastes (typical in a hospital), or a more focused group (consider a pediatrician's office)? Use information about your patients to focus your music programming.
It's important to strike a balance between what's appropriate based on your patients, time of day, and staff. It's okay to build an overhead music playlist that varies between ultra-calming tracks and more upbeat music. Variety is the spice of life, and the key to keeping all parties content.
4. Do You Need Announcements?
Overhead Announcements allow you to pass useful information to patients and critical content to staff. Not every healthcare facility will need overhead announcements, but many larger facilities use them to keep everyone on the same page. They can announce the end of visiting hours or the start of quite time, instruct staff in an emergency, or provide information about upcoming events or initiatives.
Overhead announcements can be made live or pre-recorded. Many facilities choose to use a professional voice over talent to record recurring announcements, as professional recording and editing greatly improves sound quality.
Volume is a very, very important consideration for any overhead music system, perhaps just as important as the kind of music you choose to play. If music is too quite, well, what's the point? And if it's too loud, it will interfere with the patient experience instead of enhancing it. Often neglected in best practice guides, volume is a very important aspect of the overhead music experience - don't forget about it in your facility.
The Bottom Line: Control
What does all of this mean? It's important to be able to control the music in your facility. Whether you need multiple zones of music, to change what's playing at what time of day, or to shift your music strategy based on new patient information, an overhead music system that you have complete control over should be the core feature to look for. If you're using an internet radio solution, it's time to re-evaluate your method, and choose something that lets you do a little bit more in terms of scheduling, programming, playlist building, and song-blocking. Getting into the "nitty gritty" of programming can help you serve your patients much, much better.