Recently, I visited a healthcare facility to talk with them about oral privacy related to HIPAA privacy requirements. As we toured the facility they shared the following story:
A patient came in and was shown to the exam room and told that Doctor X would be in soon. After about 5 minutes, the patient returned to the reception desk and asked to reschedule her appointment. When questioned about it, the patient relayed that Doctor X was in the adjacent room. She had overheard his entire conversation through the wall, and based on what she heard, she knew that Doctor X would not be able to meet the appointment time.
Unfortunately this is a regular occurrence in many medical facilities. Over the past 14 years, the healthcare industry has taken HIPAA and written privacy very seriously; however, protection of oral privacy has often been under designed or unfortunately overlooked. We’ve hurried to protect the written portion of our medical information, but in many cases, we’ve neglected HIPAA oral privacy rights.
Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. You’re sitting there waiting for the doctor, and you hear everything going on in the room next to you. In that moment, how uncomfortable would you be if you knew your private health information was going to be heard through that same wall, and anybody on the other side would be privy to your doctor-patient conversation?
The good news is that facilities are starting to take notice. We’ve been involved in several projects already this year where protection of both written and oral privacy was the top concern of our clients. Even if your facility is a bit older and was not designed with oral privacy in mind, there are plenty of tools that we can use to help you gain the confidence in knowing you are protecting your patient’s privacy. Although there isn’t a silver bullet that will fix an older facility, there are plenty of improvements that can be made as part of a balanced design to improve patient privacy.
At Acoustics By Design, we take HIPPA oral speech privacy seriously. We design acoustical solutions for both new construction and retrofit applications. As consultants, it’s our job to help you get to the end game. And in this case, the end game is the privacy and confidence of your patients.