Hospitals, by their very nature, are large, open public spaces that don’t immediately conjure up images of a highly secure environment, however, an integrated approach to security is rapidly becoming the norm as more and more ‘digital hospitals’ are being introduced. There are a number of threats and risks that now apply to healthcare facilities, and appear to be on the rise over recent years. Some of these include but are not limited to:
* Verbal and serious physical assault, criminal damage and arson.
* Theft, vandalism or damage to assets, equipment and property.
* Protective security of sensitive patient information.
Design of a security solution to address these issues requires a balancing act between safety and service, quality of care and regulatory compliance. The evolution of security in health facilities must now also match the latest changes to the model of care and new operating philosophies. No longer is security viewed as the sole responsibility of the security manager; it now warrants a more integrated approach incorporating more contemporary functions of planning, management and people-focused services. Security, along with safety and emergency management should be a key consideration during the initial planning process to ensure that workflows are seamlessly integrated with technology to deliver the most cost effective outcomes for the facility.
The emergence of the digital hospital has seen an increasing reliance on technology as an integral and fundamental part of the business strategy, enabling the organisation to leverage its potential for delivering higher quality care in increasingly efficient ways through the use of IT and process redesign. This approach goes beyond advanced clinical systems and includes additional integration between IT, medical, communication and building technologies to create a real-time hospital information environment. It is in this context that an integrated approach to security should be taken – offering not only the traditional restricted access to the facility, or CCTV monitoring to reduce incidents – but also enabling an enhanced ability to respond to OH&S issues, emergency evacuation events or limiting the spreading of infectious diseases. The integrated security system becomes much more than simply security – it is an incident and response management system with an in-built audit trail and detailed reporting capabilities.
So how might an integrated security system actually be used within a hospital? There are, of course, the traditional security management aspects of access control to ensure that the right people have the right levels of access to the right areas; or CCTV to identify visitors or to monitor unpatrolled areas such as the car park. However, that same access control system may now use smartcard technology, providing access not only to the facility itself but also taking advantage of the in-built digital credentials to gain access to the hospital’s IT systems, drug safes or even for cashless vending in the cafeteria.
The CCTV system can now be linked with the fire system for example, meaning that in the event of a fire alarm the cameras can provide an instantaneous view of the area under threat to properly ascertain the degree of risk. Similarly, expensive clinical equipment or even infants can be tagged with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags reducing the risks associated with misplacement or theft. When integrated with the building management system, the security system can be used to isolate part of the hospital in the event of an outbreak of infectious disease – the opportunities are endless. These systems and others such as visitor management, time and attendance, and mobile duress can all be managed from a single console view with a full audit trail available.
There are clear benefits to be derived from an active, strategic approach to security management and the implementation of an integrated security infrastructure. By taking a holistic view towards risk management and compliance, health departments can reap the rewards of systems that have lower costs of administration and support.
Those seeking to embark on such a strategy need to be clear on the outcomes expected, and ensure that buy-in is gained at all levels; these strategies need to be closely aligned with business objectives, and not be viewed as simply an IT or security project.
There is clearly a paradigm shift in the way security systems are viewed; no longer is it a necessary evil but rather a vital tool to drive efficiencies and manage the flow of information, all resulting in a more safe and secure environment for patients, staff and visitors alike.
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