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Sound Masking Comes Full Circle

Feb 28, 2008 10:28 AM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

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But the technology isn’t the only factor in play. Privacy, Leonard says, is really pushing sound-masking industry to the forefront in building design. With government measures such as the more familiar Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect individuals healthcare information and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GBLA), or the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, to protect personal financial information held by financial institutions, many institutions are seeking out sound masking as a way to ensure the oral privacy of their clients and in turn giving the sound-masking industry a boost.

“Basically, the federal law mandates that in a healthcare setting or any setting where you’re transferring personal health information, such as a hospital, human resources areas, medical clinics, or insurance companies, that they must comply with HIPAA regulations,” Leonard says. “So privacy has come to the forefront in the minds of consumers, whether they are a consumer who builds office environment or works in a healthcare environment, the federal laws have really made companies buckle down their approach to protecting privacy. [HIPAA and GBLA] were obvious things that needed to happen because imagine the impact if someone’s financial information or medical records got placed on the Internet, you could never recover that information ever again.

The masking industry has really changed and has challenged companies to create better equipment, and better designs. It’s also been more readily adopted because people want and crave privacy on many levels, from providing a comfortable space in which to work, to building spaces that provide occupants with the ability to be productive, all the while maintaining an appropriate level of privacy.

In response to HIPAA concerns, Leonard has worked with a number of high-profile healthcare clients to meet their compliance objectives, however, widespread adoption of the oral privacy portion of HIPAA has yet to be seen because there’s currently no real pro-active push for compliancy. Until then, Leonard says that many of the facilities that do address HIPAA oral privacy most likely do so because of the economic benefits to their clients.

For example, installing a sound-masking system in patient rooms of a hospital has shown to improve patient satisfaction with their hospital stays and this has been linked to an increase in bed turnover rates. The reasoning: If patients can get better rest—free from the heavy foot traffic and noise prevalent in hospitals—they can get well faster. If a hospital can be well known for providing a comfortable, restful setting, then more patients will want to use that facility should they have an operation or emergency. Sound masking provides added value.

It isn’t just hospitals and banks taking the opportunity to make their environments more comfortable and secure either. Corporations are also using sound-masking systems in their building so their employees can work undistracted, allowing them to make the most of their time and be more efficient. After all, who wants an underperforming employee?

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