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   HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 and its purpose is to provide health care coverage continuity, ensure greater accountability and simplify administrative functions within the health care industry.

   HIPAA objectives include extensive new requirements for privacy standards that include the transmission of health information in electronic, paper and oral forms.

   This site will provide you with a brief overview of HIPAA. However, its primary focus will be dedicated to explaining that portion of the HIPAA mandate that pertains to oral privacy. Sound masking may assist corporate entities in meeting the oral privacy requirements for HIPAA and it can further protect personal health information that is communicated orally.



   Under Section 164.502 of the Federal Register’s Department of Health and Human Services final ruling on Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information it states that:

“Protected Health Information includes individually identifiable information in any form, including information that is transmitted ORALLY, or in written or electronic form. This Privacy Ruling requires that covered health care entities make reasonable efforts to limit the use or disclosure of protected health information to the minimum necessary.”



All types of health care organizations will be affected by HIPAA legislation including:

   > Pharmacies
   > Physician Offices
   > Medical Clinics
   > Public Health Authorities
   > Life Insurers
   > Billing Agencies
   > Information System Vendors
   > Service Organizations
   > Hospitals
   > Military Medical Bases
   > Employers

    As defined by the December 2000 Privacy Rule, there are also a number of hybrid organizations that must also comply. These are corporations that are not specifically in the health care industry but that may engage in “covered functions” such as those that relate to the entity’s operation as a health plan, health care provider, or health care clearinghouse. Other entities that are affected include those that operate on-site health clinics that conduct standard HIPAA transactions, as well as insurance carriers that have multiple business lines that include both health insurance and other lines such as general liability, property, and casualty insurance.



   As defined by ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) standards; speech privacy is achieved when the measured Articulation Index (AI) is less than .20'.

   The Annual Book of ASTM Standards defines Articulation Index as “a computational method for predicting the intelligibility of speech for talkers and listeners. The Articulation Index is a weighted fraction representing, for a given speech frequency band and noise condition, the effective proportion of the standard speech signal that is available at the listener’s ear for conveying speech intelligibility.”


   When designing facilities it is important to consider the level of background sound within the environment. Without the appropriate levels of background sound masking, conversations can be easily understood.


   In health care, many transactions involving the discussion of personal health information take place at pharmacy counters, reception areas, admission desks, nurses' stations, consultation areas, physician offices and waiting rooms. To protect the privacy of these conversations, background sound masking must be introduced to render speech unintelligible and thus provide an acceptable level of oral privacy.


To View (on this site) the HIPAA Statutory Background including information on rules and regulations, uses and disclosures of PHI, compliance and enforcement, compliance deadlines, and supplementary information: