Access control in hospitals: challenges and requirements
Access control in hospitals: challenges and requirements
With the Asian security and VMS market is set to expand at a quick pace in the coming years, Milestone Systems is going all out to continue its leading role in the region with a slew of technology and partnership offerings.
Access control in hospitals: challenges and requirements
Date: 2017/06/07
Source: Prasanth Aby Thomas
When it comes to providing secure access control, hospitals pose a unique challenge. On the one hand, there are numerous staff, patients and equipment there that need to be protected, but on the other hand, hospitals should provide a warm and comfortable space to patients who come in. There are also drugs and patient information that could be sensitive and need to be protected.

Making things complex is the fact that hospitals could be spread across large areas with different buildings. Rules of access to each of these buildings could be different. For instance, staff of certain section may not be allowed to access certain areas. To cover such issues, access control solutions will often have to be integrated with other security systems such as video surveillance and alarm systems.

Installers and consultants also need to take into account that no two institutions are the same in their requirements. The different kinds of staff that work in the hospital including temporary personnel and patients all need to be given different levels of access. Finally, security solution providers have to remember that there are often several governmental regulations when it comes to providing security to hospitals. Depending on which country you are in, these rules may be different.

Mitchell Kane, President of Vanderbilt Industries pointed out that health care facilities like nursing homes and hospitals should not only balance the governmental regulations that are in place but also provide safety and security for visitors, patients, staff and assets.

“The ability to lock down portions of a hospital or an entire facility is crucial to its ongoing operations,” Kane said. “Additionally, having a system in place that allows security officials to communicate these rules quickly and efficiently, through an easy-to-use interface is the key to adhering to the rules and regulations that govern healthcare facilities. Medical files and controlled substances must also be protected with electronic access-controlled cabinet locks to provide hospitals and administrators with the required audit trail in the case of a breach.”

Gaoping Xiao, Director of Sales in APAC at AMAG Technology agreed to this as he added that the major security requirements in hospitals are access control, video management, visitor management and increased security for sensitive areas such as pharmacies, psychiatric wards and laboratories. Integrations with audio systems, emergency buttons and patient medical systems are critical for overall safety.

Major challenges in securing health care institutions 
According to Kane, access control within the health care industry, particularly in hospitals, requires a unique approach, encompassing both main entrance doors, as well as internal access-controlled entrances and exits based on location. These facilities require the ability to control access remotely through mobile applications, confirm identity quickly and easily and program various levels of access for visitors, patients, doctors and staff. These facilities also require oversight of 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which can be a challenge for security directors.

“Security managers can work to overcome these challenges by seamlessly integrating systems together,” Kane said. “For example, programming various doors and locks to activate at specific times and applying rules based on time of day, shift changes, specific department access and more. Additionally, sensitive materials, such as narcotics or sterile environments, require added protection and protocols.”

 In Xiao’s opinion, the major challenge remains maintaining an open environment while managing visitors and their access carefully. Controlling access to critical areas like pharmacies, psychiatric areas and emergency rooms require different parameters, all controlled by the same access control system.

“The number of patients, staff, and visitors are high, and working areas and open areas are mixed, with many critical areas like emergency or surgery rooms needing a higher level of security,” Xiao said. “More balance is needed for efficiency and security.” 

Factors driving demand in this sector
As security and safety continue to be a concern across the globe, hospitals and other health care facilities are forced to look for adequate access control solutions.

“Lockdown capabilities are paramount within today's healthcare market, driving access control manufacturers to provide solutions that make it easy for security directors to control access quickly and efficiently in the event of an emergency,” Kane said. “End users are also looking for mobility, and having a mobile application to help grant access, freeze access or changer permissions instantaneously is important in this vertical market, along with the ability for security teams and professionals to move freely throughout the facility. Additionally, the need for integration will continue to drive innovation in access control, not only for security systems, but for human resources, directory software tools and event management programs. Busy facilities and their administrators require the ability to grant permissions in a way that not only saves time and energy on manual input, but also makes changing permissions easy and efficient.”

Xiao added that when hospitals realize they need to do more than control access to sensitive areas and start managing the different identities that come into their facilities, then we will see a change. “Security is more than putting locks on doors,” he said. “It’s about understanding who is coming into your hospitals – visitors, employees, contractors and vendors – and understanding their different risk levels.

Technological advancements are also expected to be a major driver of demand in hospital security. Xiao pointed out that as more features are developed for smartphones, access control systems can leverage more of the functionalities like BLE readers and cloud-based panels. People will always remember their smartphone and are more likely to forget their access cards. Leveraging new technologies like this will be convenient for the health care industry. 

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