Soundmasking Solutions

An ASID / Dynasound collaborative study revealed that 71% of employees consider open plan speech noise to be the #1 facilities problem.

In an open plan office environment, the purpose of sound masking is to improve workplace productivity by reducing the amount of conversational distractions.

A few documented advantages of properly designed and implemented soundmasking solutions in open office floor plans are:

  • Speech privacy increased by 50% in open plan office environments
  • Productivity increases of 13% - 20% when conversational distraction was reduced to acceptable levels
  • Average increases of up 175% in employee satisfaction
  • Reduced workplace stress levels
  • Financial models document a 300% to 500% return on investment
  • An overall perception of a quieter work environment

What is the intent of the oral privacy requirement?

Improving patient satisfaction by increasing speech privacy protects patient’s medical information from being overheard by intentional or unintentional eavesdropping.

Providers must have in place appropriate physical facility safeguards to protect patient’s privacy.

Reasonable safeguard means that providers must make reasonable efforts to prevent uses and disclosures not permitted by the rule. In other words, the facility must take reasonable measures to insure that discussions about a patients medical information is not overheard by others.

In assessing what is reasonable, providers may consider the viewpoint of prudent professionals.

The final rule issued August 14, 2002 indicates that while incidental disclosures of medical information may be overheard on occasion, the medical staff must take the appropriate precautions to comply with the oral privacy requirements.

Who must Comply with HIPAA?

As required by HIPAA, this regulation covers health care providers, doctors offices, employers, vendors, service organizations, universities, and healthcare plans. In addition, the rule applies to all those who conduct specific administrative and financial transactions through oral communications.

HIPAA Deadline and Enforcement

Enforcement of the HIPAA regulations will come under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who will determine if an organization is compliant with the new legislation. They will also issue penalties for non-compliance with the oral privacy requirements.

The Lack of Oral Privacy

Private Areas

Doctors offices, examination rooms, treatment rooms, etc. The problem is generally a lack of Confidential Speech Privacy. The unwanted result is that sensitive conversations occurring in these areas can be inadvertently understood outside the office by a passer-by. The ramifications of the unprotected sensitive information disseminating can be insignificant or very costly. In either case, businesses must avoid these types of liabilities whenever possible...or risk their livelihood.

Open Areas

Certain areas, such as Admissions, nurses stations, pharmacies, waiting rooms, reception and counseling areas, are prone to a mix of two unavoidable factors that equal a high risk of speech privacy breaches: crowding and a high rate of speech volume. Due to the open nature of these areas, conversations can be easily overheard. The addition of simple curtains, partial height workstation dividers or glass sections create a false sense of privacy but is usually not sufficient to contain most speech. In most facilities without soundmasking, conversations can be legibly overheard up to 50-feet away.

Soundmasking Increases Oral Privacy

Properly designed and installed, soundmasking solutions can reduce the distance a conversation can be legibly overheard in an open area from almost 50-feet to under 15-feet. When soundmasking is incorporated into a well-built private office space (utilizing appropriate acoustical ceiling tiles, floors, doors, and wall systems), Confidential Speech Privacy can be achieved. By definition, Confidential Speech Privacy requires a Privacy Index (PI) of no less than 95%. This translates to 95 out of every 100 words discussed inside a private office are unintelligible from the outside, leaving the remaining 5 out of every 100 words as insufficient clues for one to decipher the message being exchanged.

For More information Contact Midwest Technology.

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