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The right mixture of security for healthcare environments

The right mixture of security for healthcare environments
Healthcare professionals face many challenges when trying to secure a facility, which is made even more difficult when needing to maintain an open, welcoming environment. This is why a solid access control system must be in place.

Healthcare professionals face many challenges when trying to secure a facility, which is made even more difficult when needing to maintain an open, welcoming environment. This is why a solid access control system must be in place.

Nowadays, traditional keys and wired magnetic locks can both fail to meet the healthcare sector’s needs. “Mechanical keys can’t offer the user-friendliness, real-time monitoring and detailed audit trails that sensitive security and proper investigation of breaches demands,” said Thomas Schulz, Marketing and Communications Director of Digital and Access Solutions for EMEA at ASSA ABLOY. "It's a difficult balance, and one that can best be met with flexible, electronic access control. With a flexible access management system, it’s easy to program permissions so just authorized staff and visitors can access the right areas, at the right times. Nobody else.”

Access control within the healthcare industry, though, requires a unique approach, according to Kim Loy, Director of Technology and Communications at Vanderbilt — one that encompasses not only main entrance doors, but also internal entrances and exits based on location and access level. Additionally, “Healthcare facilities demand the ability to control access remotely through mobile applications, confirm identity quickly and easily, and program varying levels of access for visitors, patients, doctors and staff. These facilities require oversight 24/7, which can be a challenge for security directors as well,” she added.
Kim Loy, Director,
Technology and Communications, 

Integrating access and video

“Access control systems provide an effective way for granting only authorized personnel access to critical areas and log all the events in the system. Video surveillance can assist security officers with monitoring, recording all the activities in public places throughout the facility. The two systems not only deter crimes, but also improve the operational efficiency of the security department, as a smaller number of security staff are needed but provide a quicker response time,” said Gaoping Xiao, Director of Sales for APAC at AMAG Technology.

Increased situational awareness is one of the benefits of this integration, according to Xiao. “When an alarm occurs in the access control system, video can record and pop up for the incident and provides the security team with the information it needs to make quick and educated decisions on how to best respond,” he explained. “The security team can view live and recorded video, and pull up video associated with alarms and events, providing enhanced security.”

Fire systems

“In the event of a breach, it’s crucial for security teams to have a complete picture of the situation to react and address the threat accordingly. For example, an official using a security management system can be alerted to an intrusion alarm from a narcotics storage room and automatically pull up the cameras covering the door to assess the incident before responding,” Loy said.

James Ford, Director of Global Marketing at Stanley Product and Technology, pointed to a single integrated platform that assimilates security with a fire detection system, which means that in the event of a fire people can evacuate the building quickly and safely. He added that further integration with a building energy management system can help identify potentially damaging events such as a power surge, and put measures in place to limit their effects.
Gaoping Xiao,
Director, Sales, APAC,
AMAG Technology

Location tracking

Location tracking technology allows healthcare managers to track medical equipment such as beds and wheelchairs, patients and staff. Integrating access control with location tracking systems can automatically open or deny access to certain restricted areas.

“This technology is particularly useful in the NICU to prevent any mother/ baby mix-ups or infant abductions, as doors will automatically close and lock if an unrecognized person were to take the tagged baby out of the authorized area. For seniors who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s the integrated solution provides effective ‘wander management’ to prevent the patient from leaving the facility un-escorted,” explained Barbara Johansson, Global Solution Marketing Manager of Education and Healthcare at Axis Communications.  

Other useful integrations

In many large enterprise organizations, multiple databases can be incorporated into one security management system, including a human resources software program, Loy said. “The result is the ability to streamline data input with the push of a button. For example, when an employee is terminated, access is automatically revoked when an HR manager changes the person’s employment from active to inactive. This means the integration of data requires only a single update to control access across the campus.”

“One integration option that could be of huge advantage to the healthcare sector is workflow management,” according to Ford. “With seamless integration to multiple systems, it can provide functions such as visitor management, staff management and qualification verification, as well as time and attendance using a site access control system card.”

Within healthcare environments, integrated building services based around a security system could deliver tangible operational benefits. Integration with incident, case and asset management systems can also be useful. Such systems could allow security officers to report, track and resolve incidents and identify and mitigate potential risks. “By identifying risks and trends, security officers can better predict potential issues and address them before they become a larger problem. Identity management systems can help healthcare facilities stay in compliance by automating manual processes,” Xiao advised.

However, with integration comes management of these systems and other caveats, according to Chad Parris, President of Security Risk Management Consultants (SRMC). “Healthcare organizations should be prepared to do their due diligence before implementing system integrations. Consideration for the maintenance and on-going care and feeding of these integrations is critical as often times some integrations need further ‘tweaking’ and maintenance to be most effective and not become a nuisance to system operators. Additional, with integrations comes an initial cost and typically on-going costs between these systems. System upgrades between these systems is also important as they need to remain in lock-step or the integration can be broken,” he explained.

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