Vanderbilt University

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital

The new open-office floor plan at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital was an initial success.  At first glance, the workers liked the open configuration and aesthetic appeal. However, problems came when the office was filled with workers, and HIPAA Speech Privacy Compliance came into question.  Speech privacy and confidentiality was a high priority for the hospital, and they wanted to make sure they were in compliance with the HIPAA rules. Their goal was to create an environment of trust, so patients could know that their private health concerns would not be overheard by other workers and patients.

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule requires open-office suites in medical facilities to employ “reasonable privacy safeguards,” and it offers a compliance certificate to offices that meet their specific requirements.

After some research and consultation, the hospital installed a Confidante Speech Privacy System to raise the overall background noise level.  This new “sound masking” system introduced a subtle white-noise into the native environment to “cover up” confidential conversations and abrupt noise changes.  When done right, sound masking systems increase speech privacy and soften the noise floor.

Acoustics By Design was retained to take sound measurements in the office to quantify the positive effects of the new system.  Our professional sound engineers took readings at 124 locations within the office with the sound masking system turned off, and then again with the system turned on.  Our detailed report noted that the hospital was in compliance with the HIPAA Speech Privacy Rule.


Posted on

April 27, 2007