Soundproof healthcare facilities to ensure confidentiality of patients’ data.

Imagine this scenario. You are at your doctor’s office. You are there for consultation and after some tests, the doctor called you in to inform the results of diagnosis. Whatever may the disease or your problem be, you wouldn’t want a bunch of strangers sitting outside to hear your private conversations with the doctor. It is unnecessary and embarrassing. If your doctor’s room is not soundproof, chances are that the patient waiting outside, unintentionally, heard the confidential conversation between you and your doctor.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that was enacted in the US in the year 1996 by the then President Bill Clinton is adopted by healthcare institutes in India as well. HIPAA safeguards the confidentiality of patients. Healthcare providers that are in compliance with HIPAA take measures to protect computer equipment, software, hardware, etc from environmental and natural hazards and also from unauthorized intrusion and access of patient data. But this ensures only safety of patient data saved in electronic form. But the information can still be leaked through thin walls.

Medical practices think about protecting the information saved in electronic form rather than preventing the leakage of information through walls or other materials, by soundproofing the walls.

Sound control basics.

Soundproofing can be done by simply replacing the ceiling tiles with soundproof tiles, or adding curtains to windows to absorb sounds. For this, it is important to understand the physics behind sound production and absorption.

Sound control ability of a material is measured using two different ways: STC and NRC. STC or Sound Transmission Class, is a rating that measures the ability with which a material can attenuate sounds. The higher the STC rating, the better the resistance of a material to sound waves.

Noise Reduction Coefficient or NRC, represents the amount of sound energy absorbed by a material when sound waves are incident on them. 0 represents complete reflection and 1 represents absolute absorption.

Methods of soundproofing

There are several methods for soundproofing. Some of them are listed below.

  • Use sound-reducing ceiling tiles instead of traditional ceiling tiles. Sound-reducing tiles absorb and block sound, thereby reducing sound.

  • Use window stripping and weather stripping. Window stripping will block sound from entering the interiors and weather stripping prevent the escape of sound waves.

  • Use carpets and wall coverings that will absorb sound.

  • Installing acoustical insulation in wall cavities is the best way to soundproof healthcare facilities. This will help increase the STC value of the wall assembly. Higher STC means better resistance to the travelling of sound from one room to the other. Acoustical insulations based on fibre, like monoglass, has high STC rating.This will ensure that the conversations you have with your doctor in private, will remain private.

Soundproofing doesn’t completely guarantee the confidentiality of your data. Leakage of data through oral communication is a chance and can’t be avoided by soundproofing rooms. Older healthcare institutes and facilities are in uninsulated buildings and are prone to leakage of private conversations. In such places, soundproofing can play a good role in ensuring confidentiality of data.