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Creating a More Private Environment in Your Practice

Creating a More Private Environment in Your Practice

Privacy is obviously an important consideration within a medical fit-out. Healthcare design company Evoke Projects explains how clever medical design can improve the physical environment for patients and staff.

Importance of noise control and privacy in a medical fit-out

Conversations in healthcare practices are, by their very nature, confidential. Patients feel uncomfortable if the physical environment is not overtly private. It can even hinder effective healthcare because patients may be reluctant to talk openly with their practitioner. Medical practices also have a legal duty to protect patient privacy.

Some background noise can be welcome and mask the detail of conversations, particularly at the reception desk. However, too much noise is irritating to patients and distracting for staff trying to concentrate on detailed tasks. Staff will also appreciate a reprieve from ‘medical conversation noise’ during their break-times. Aim for acoustic and visual privacy as well as thoughtful interior design within the medical fit-out.

Not all measures require a full new healthcare fit-out. There are steps you can take with a medical practice refurbishment.

Improving acoustic privacy in the medical practice

  • Screens – While most medical practices will have enclosed rooms, there may be curtains or screens for less private treatments. Even if the treatment is not of a sensitive nature, patients will still feel more comfortable if conversations are not over-heard. Partitions/screens that are designed for acoustic damping are the best choice. For curtains, hospital-grade fabric will have the best sound absorption. Acoustic screens will also help dampen the noise of medical equipment or printers.
  • Ceiling – It is surprising how much sound reverberates from the ceiling. Use sound-absorbing ceiling panels, sound clouds or baffles, which can be visually and architecturally appealing. Other solutions include added insulation above the ceiling or even spray-on insulation that absorbs sound waves.
  • Flooring – Careful consideration around flooring will pay dividends too. Rubber, linoleum, cork and vinyl tiles have less reverberation than hard tiles. Underlays, insulation and floor sealants help with soundproofing, while floor mats at workstations will reduce the noise of chairs moving around. Check the space below doors, as door seals to the floor can reduce sounds emanating from a room.
  • White noise – Ambient or white noise will mask the detail of conversations. It does not have to be music. Biophilic, nature-inspired noise, such as a waterfall or birds singing, is relaxing.

When comparing materials for sound absorption, look for the NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) rating. The higher the number, the better absorption.

How to create better visual privacy

Medical practices usually have this under control but there are some considerations:

  • Consider the exact spot where a practitioner enters a screened or curtained area. A side entry will usually offer better patient privacy.
  • Put screen privacy filters on all monitors so they cannot be viewed from the side.

Healthcare practice design will affect noise and privacy

  • When undertaking your next medical fit-out or refurbishment, consider the location of noisy or communal areas such as reception, medical equipment rooms and staff kitchens. Locate them away from quiet patient areas.
  • If patients must disclose private information during check-in at reception or while making follow-up appointments, locate this function away from the general waiting area.
  • High-backed furniture, fabric instead of hard materials and clever furniture placement can help to naturally reduce echo and noise.
  • Within the medical design, provide private zones for quiet work and concentration. An enclosed room is not the only choice; booths, pods or dedicated sections with soundproof partitions also work well.
  • Include staff personal spaces with lounge style furniture and rugs for breakout time. This gives people a place to relax and feel like they are at home. Our brains naturally associate home with peace and privacy, which is good for health and well-being.
  • Biophilic design has a calming effect. Indoor plants, natural design elements, artwork and water features evoke a sense of nature and peace. Plants are also natural sound absorbers.
  • As well as partitions, flexible and modular furniture can be used to create private spaces. Storage units work well as room dividers.

It is a good idea to consult with your staff before embarking on a new medical fit-out or healthcare refurbishment. Find out what bothers or distracts them. Ask for their ideas. Being consulted and included always improves the mental health and well-being of workers.

For medical design and fit-out ideas to improve privacy and noise control, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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