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Managing access control in healthcare facilities during Covid-19

Managing access control in healthcare facilities during Covid-19
The role that access control plays in healthcare facilities has become more pronounced in the global pandemic. Not only can this create a safe and secure environment for patients and healthcare workers, it can also serve as an important tool to mitigate the spread of disease. spoke to David Thean, Regional Manager for South East Asia at Gallagher, for his views and insights on this topic.

The role that access control plays in healthcare facilities has become more pronounced in the global pandemic. Not only can this create a safe and secure environment for patients and healthcare workers, it can also serve as an important tool to mitigate the spread of disease. spoke to David Thean, Regional Manager for South East Asia at Gallagher, for his views and insights on this topic. 

Q: How has the industry changed during the pandemic? What are the major issues currently facing the healthcare industry (especially in Asia)?

David Thean 
Regional Manager, SEA
Thean: The global impacts of COVID-19 on our healthcare system are clear, and even more so for the doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff who are working around the clock to save human lives. One of the biggest challenges we’re seeing healthcare facilities face today is how to monitor and control their environment to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 among patients and staff, while also maintaining separation between infected and non-infected patients.
To address these challenges, healthcare providers are taking preventative measures such as limiting the number of people within an area, screening temperatures on arrival, enforcing the wearing of masks, and capturing visitor details for contact tracing. However, for an overextended workforce like healthcare, the ability to be able to automate these processes and share relevant information rapidly is crucial.
With the aggressive spread of the Delta variant across Asia, and COVID-19 vaccines now being rolled out, it is has become essential for healthcare professionals to have easy access to COVID-19 vaccination records and test results. By using competency-based access management, nominated personnel can receive an alert if a person arriving on site has not had their COVID-19 vaccination, or has exceeded their test period, and restrict access to areas depending on facility requirements. 

Q: How has access control solutions evolved during this time, in terms of operations, applications, etc.?

Thean: Access control technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping to protect healthcare operations through reducing the spread of the virus and ensuring a safe place for staff to treat patients. The management of contagious diseases has always been a significant factor for healthcare facilities to contend with, and while many have the experience and systems in place to manage these challenges, intelligent access control technology can enhance infectious disease management, while simultaneously improving business continuity and efficiency.
Now more than ever, the healthcare industry is looking for an access control system that has an open architecture which can be integrated with other systems seamlessly and robustly. Customers are now requiring more from their access control system - from contactless biometrics and mask detection, to integrated visitor management systems and automated facility management to minimize human effort and exposure. Prior to COVID-19, these features were good to have, but are now considered a necessity for healthcare facilities.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen healthcare providers utilize their access control technology to keep both on-site and remote-based staff informed, ensuring critical information is received amongst a rapidly changing environment. By using tools like the Gallagher Mobile Connect app and Broadcast Notifications tool, staff can be quickly contacted via an email or text message with a push notification.
Many healthcare providers are also making the switch to contactless access control systems which provide a reliable way for sites to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread. From entering the building, to moving around different areas - finding and badging a card is no longer required and can be fully automated with a contactless access control system.
From a security perspective, we’re also seeing hospitals and medical facilities use access control integrations with employee credentials to control and supervise access to restricted areas, such as medical storage units for COVID-19 vaccines. The ability to produce a comprehensive audit trail from their access control system, allows facilities to obtain a high level of traceability for both internal use and regulatory audits.

Q: How can Gallagher's smart access control solutions be leveraged to address new challenges in healthcare?

Thean: Gallagher’s open architecture system, various Software Development Kits, and REST APIs are available to integrators and operators to have the flexibility to integrate with other systems and create holistic solutions for healthcare facilities.
This year, we announced an integration between our Command Center software and the Invixium IXM TITAN – offering a touchless biometric access control solution that delivers mask detection, facial recognition, and temperatures screening. This integration is ideal for healthcare providers who need to detect whether someone is wearing a mask or has an elevated temperature before being granted access to the facility. Not only does this keep staff and patients safe, but it also helps to certify compliance with government regulations.
Contact tracing has become a vital method for slowing the spread of COVID-19, and through using access control data, sites can get a picture of who has been where, and when. Gallagher’s award-winning Proximity and Contact Tracing Report can quickly and accurately identify areas where a cardholder has been on site through fast and effective contact tracing. It also aids in the identification of those who did not share an area with an infected person, therefore ruling out exposure concerns and allowing staff to continue to operate in a safe environment.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure to staff and patients, many healthcare facilities across Asia have implemented rules that prevent friends and family from visiting as easily or as often as they did previously. However, in some cases, a designated caregiver visitor can be admitted together with a patient to provide specialized care and support. Gallagher’s integrated Visitor Management System helps healthcare facilities to carefully manage caregiver visitor access and ensure they have produced a negative test result before being admitted to the site. The system’s intelligent functionality simplifies reception tasks and automates the processing of visitors upon arrival, with pre-registration checks able to be carried out in advance to capture their details, confirm whether they have been to a COVID-19 hotspot, and provide relevant zone access within the site.

Q: Any best practices or tips that you would recommend for systems integrators in the healthcare segment to get the most out of their systems?

Thean: Providing any kind of standalone system is no longer attractive, and with the rapid digital adoption driven by the pandemic, customers are seeking a connected information platform that extends beyond any standalone security system. Security systems need to be intelligent and have the ability to share information seamlessly and rapidly with a site’s broader IT system. By choosing a robust, open architecture access control system, you can be creative and offer solutions that customers really need.

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