One of the most important factors for both the patient and the clinician when in virtual consultations is privacy. It’s essential in maintaining a high level of trust from patients when embracing new digital care methods. We must ensure patient dignity is respected and data protection regulations like GDPR are adhered to, maintaining confidentiality.
The construction materials used for traditional clinical rooms, and the modern open office areas, don’t provide a quiet, acoustically enhanced space that ensures this privacy. However, with an acoustically enhanced pod designed for virtual consultations, speech intelligibility privacy is achieved through acoustically enhanced materials. When looking at pods and booths for virtual consultations, it’s important to understand the speech intelligibility and acoustics of the pod to ensure privacy, as they are not all designed with this in mind.
What is speech intelligibility?
In speech communication, intelligibility is a measure of how comprehensible speech is in given conditions. Intelligibility is affected by the level and quality of the speech signal, the type and level of background noise, reverberation, and, for speech over communication devices, the properties of the communication system.
Normal conversations between each other are around 50-65dB, anything less than this makes speech intelligibility harder and anything above can become unnecessarily loud for the human ear.
What is the speech intelligibility of a virtual consultation pod?
With the Consult range, confidentiality is maintained through high acoustic performance materials with a dB reduction rating of up to 35dB.
This implies the standard volume of a human voice is reduced by up to 35 times with the acoustic properties of a virtual consultation pod, meaning you can hear some noise but not identify or understand the words that are being said inside the pod. Likewise, the clinician inside the pod isn’t distracted by any noise from outside the pod, ensuring focus on the consultation with the patient.
One of the weakest acoustic points in regular room construction is the gap around doors, a small gap can reduce the acoustic properties by 10%. Spacestor have a unique technique in achieving sound privacy through the use of a patent pending acoustic seal. To ensure easy access for users of all abilities, the pod itself has no floor. Therefore, the structure needs to be sealed to the floor to avoid any loss of acoustic integrity. The acoustic seal follows the contour of the floor and can cope with a 20mm difference in surface level, avoiding the need for floors to be levelled prior to installation.
One of the biggest advantages of the enhanced acoustic properties is it allows the pods to be placed anywhere , as all you need is a single power socket to operate them. This utilises waiting rooms, corridors, and community spaces.
Pod alternatives – What are the pros and cons?
With a regular clinical room, confidentiality is maintained to a certain degree if the walls are a standard block or drywall constructions, as they reduce noise by around 30dB on average. However, the weakness is in the doorway where small gaps can lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of the sound reduction and privacy is violated. The wasted space of the large room being used for virtual consultations is also a big downside when it could be used for a more critical face to face appointment.
An open plan office is often used but they can be a noisy place with various background noises from colleagues working, causing distractions during the call and making it difficult for patients to concentrate and understand the clinician. It does mean clinicians can remain at their desk for consultations, but patients have reported bad experiences with this option due to the noise levels.
A smaller built-in room designed for virtual consultations is another alternative that provides a similar solution to a pod. The acoustics of the wall are similar, but a regular door can allow noise to escape, like a clinical room, resulting in decreased privacy. When planned into a new build they are easy to construct, however, they are costly to build into existing real estate and don’t allow flexibility. A pod is quick and easy to install because it’s modular and can be moved if your needs change, which this isn’t possible with a built-in room.
Can you hear what’s being said inside a virtual consultation pod?
In conclusion, a virtual consultation pod is private so those outside cannot understand conversations happening inside the pod. The best way to test this is to book a demo to try out a virtual consultation pod for yourself. You can book a demo at one of our design centers here.