What are "reasonable safeguards"?

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Unfortunately, there is not a clear definition at this time. However, it is likely that judges and insurers will interpret the phrase to include whether or not the health care organization made an effort to satisfy the following three criteria:

  • Are there measurement standards for speech privacy?

    There are recognized standards for speech privacy measurement.

    American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM)
    E1130-02e1 Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of Speech Privacy in Open Offices. (This test method describes a means of measuring speech privacy objectively between locations in open offices.)
    E1374-02 Standard Guide for Open Office Acoustics. (This guide discusses the acoustical principles and interactions that affect the acoustical environment and acoustical privacy in the open office.

    American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
    S.3.2 Method for Measuring the Intelligibility of Speech Over Communications Systems
    S.3.5 Methods for the Calculation of Articulation Index. (Defines a method for computing a physical measure that is highly correlated with the intelligibility of speech as evaluated by speech perception tests given a group of talkers and listeners. This measure is called the Speech Intelligibility Index.

  • Did the organization consider whether the standard could be applied?

    Once again, no clear definition of reasonable safeguards exists, but the rule clearly does not require healthcare organizations to rebuild their facilities at great cost.

  • Could compliance with the standard have been implemented reasonably?

    Hospitals do not need to be rebuilt to be in compliance. According to David Sykes, PhD, Accentech, formerly BBN Acoustics, an acoustical consulting firm that is the oldest and largest organization of its type located in Cambridge, Mass states:

    "Oral privacy can be achieved without expensive soundproofing of existing walls or requiring new major construction, without imposing a large financial burden on the organization, and without reorganizing your healthcare organization facilities or retraining the healthcare staff. There are inexpensive "off-the-shelf" passive and electronically active acoustic technologies available."


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