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This musician is redesigning the future of healthcare with sound


This musician is redesigning the future of healthcare with sound

WATCH | A Washington, D.C., based musician is helping to change the sounds we hear in hospitals. 

Yoko K. Sen is an electronica musician who has performed all over the world and created music that others have described as "dreamy." According to her, sound is so naturally embedded in her conscious that she even deciphers random noises through musical notes (an ambulance siren is one example she gave). 

But a medical emergency changed all of that. While hospitalized and constrained to the noises in her ER room, she heard something that got under her skin. The three machines that kept beeping were, in unison, creating a dissonant harmony chord called tritone.

Soon after recovering, she created Sen Sound. The mission to change hospital sounds was set forth and she discovered there was an entire industry waiting for the call. Medical and design professionals at Sibley Innovation Hub (John Hopkins Medicine), Stanford Medicine X and IDEO were all excited to collaborate. 

It was during her fellowship program at the reimagined incubator space,  Halycon House in Georgetown, where she, along with the Sen Sound project team, started to develop ideas, craft prototypes and survey patient care experiences. 

Yoko speaking at a Stanford X Medicine event. 

Sound is consistently ranked as one of the leading complaints in patient surveys. The World Health Organization's guidelines call for 35 decibels in hospitals as a "safe" volume. Anything exceeding 55 decibels has the potential to cause sleep disturbance and an increase risk for heart disease. 

Yet a 2008 patient survey found an average score of 54 out of 100 for the "quietness in hospital environments" category.  

This musician is redesigning the future of healthcare with sound

WATCH |  Florence Nightingale was a world famous 20th century nurse who is considered to be the founder of modern nursing. Here Yoko describes Florence's thoughts on sound in hospitals back in her time. 

One of those collaborators is Nick Dawson, Executive Director of Johns Hopkins Sibley Innovation Hub. 

He leads a team that is constantly reimagining hospitals for the better. A step into their Palisades, DC office inside the Sibley Memorial hospital instantly transports you from the traditional ambience of hospitals. Instead there's a melange of colors, design boards with ideas sprawled across, prototypes proudly on display -- elements you'd see in a start up office as opposed to a drab "clinical environment."

Creativity and technology were two elements Sibley wanted to ultimately fuse together to create better solutions for hospitals. Working with an artist like Yoko allowed that vision to develop. 

For one instance, Sen Sound and Sibley Hub both agree that sound reconditioning should expand beyond just the patient care experience. Medical professionals like doctors and nurses are constantly bombarded with sounds, causing a phenomenon known as "alarm fatigue." Yoko hopes to envision an "ecosystem of sound" for everyone at the hospital.

This musician is redesigning the future of healthcare with sound

WATCH |  To the Sen Sound team, it's all about increasing the "sensory experience" in hospitals. Yoko realized early on that crafting "user experiences" was a key potential to grow within the medical industry. 

One product that users enjoyed in hospitals: Theremin!  

This musician is redesigning the future of healthcare with sound

WATCH |  Although there's no final product in mind yet, Yoko has developed some prototype concepts like the "Tranquility Room," a relaxing place for nurses to come and enjoy during, after, or before their shifts. 

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