Sit down in almost any healthcare design meeting and HIPPA compliance will be brought up at some point. Yet while this starts a good discussion most people recognize the need for compliance without realizing what it means to how the space it designed. 

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was created in 1996 to ensure patient confidentiality. HIPAA covers a lot of subjects but the most important part for interior designers is the privacy rule in Title II of the act. Overall, this section says that a “reasonable effort” needs to be made for patient confidentiality throughout the design. However, because it states “reasonable effort” the rules can be confusing. Below are some considerations to help you through providing “reasonable effort” for HIPAA compliance in your healthcare designs.

  • Patient charts should be located out of view from patients and visitors
  • Computers with patient information on them: Computers that have patient information on them should be placed outside the view of patient and visitors, the computer should be secured to the workspace, a 3M privacy screen should be used when in a public area
  • Remember that information given verbally to patients is for the intended recipient only and plan accordingly. This includes using noise reducing features such as NCR-rated (noise reduction coefficient, how much noise gets absorbed at mid-range frequencies) ceiling tiles, placing acoustic panels near the registration desk, using STC-rated (sound transmission coefficient, sound insulating properties) HTL cubical curtains in patient bays, using TVs or music to lessen sound transmittal and making sure there is ample room between patients when verbal information is being exchanged.

As you can see most of the “reasonable effort” is either in obscuring a computer monitor or managing how much can be overheard. In relation to sound, ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) standards; speech privacy is achieved when the measured Articulation Index (AI) is less than .20' or when the PI (privacy index) is greater than 95%.