Automated access and parking for medical centre campuses

November 2006 Access Control & Identity Management

Designing and implementing a ­comprehensive parking and security ­control system for medical centres is a fascinating and challenging assignment. The system has to be reliable, secure and user-friendly.

Several goals need to be achieved:

* High expectations.

* System needs to be easy to use.

* System needs to be very sophisticated.

* System needs to be extremely reliable.

Challenges

Various types of users. The system needs to support all the users of the system, including the patients, staff, volunteers, students, contractors and delivery people.

Shortage of parking space. Due to the tremendous growth in urban development as also the number of vehicles, parking space is at a premium these days.

Transient nature/high turnover. Patients and visitors, two of the largest groups of users in hospitals are transient by nature. Several new patients are admitted each day and several others are discharged.

Distributed nature. A large hospital campus can have several large and small buildings. Some of the users have access to 20% of these buildings and others may have access to 40%. Then comes the issue of time zones. Keeping up with all these access requirements and restrictions is a major challenge and requires both a good communication system to each of the components, but also requires a good data collections and distribution system in the complex.

Multiple use cards. More and more hospitals are opting for a single card that can be used in multiple applications. Generally a magnetic strip card works well in such applications since one can use Track 1 and Track 3 for security and Track 2 for other purposes. Smartcard technologies with a chip on a card are gaining popularity. On the other hand, proximity cards are gaining popularity as access control cards since they are user-friendly and can help increase the traffic flow.

Access control and parking security at medical centres has accelerated primarily because of:

1. Development of hospitals in the middle of large metropolitan areas.

2. An increase in the size of patient population.

3. Hospitals are growing as institutions of learning.

4. Shortage of land required for parking and cost of land acquisition.

Development

When hospitals and medical centres were built years ago, parking and security access were simply unnecessary. Land was not at a premium (as it is today) and most hospitals were situated in what were more rural areas, where there was considerable free area for vehicular parking. When you drove your car to a hospital or medical centre, there was no question in your mind as to whether you would find a parking space. The situation has now changed radically. To begin with the hospitals that were once in more rural areas (due to urban sprawl) are now in many cases sandwiched in the middle of large metropolitan areas. Property values around these hospitals have sky-rocketed. Vehicles have become more plentiful as burgeoning populations have demanded rapid growth of these most important institutions. Hospitals have grown as institutions of learning (medical students, nurses etc) and hospitals' patient populations have resulted in waiting lists to get in. Healthcare institutions are managing or buying other healthcare institutions, creating mega-hospital facilities.

The result

The result of this tremendous growth has put increased pressure on hospitals to provide parking and security access systems. At the same time, the different classifications of people using hospital facilities each day and/or night makes it mandatory to provide limited access within the hospital. These classifications include (but are not limited to):

* Patients.

* Staff.

* Volunteers.

* Students.

* Contractors.

* Delivery people.

And all of these people have different requirements.

Access requirements

In order to design an efficient and cost-effective access security system, it is necessary to address the needs of each of the users. Although some of these users will have systems in common, others will require a more unique approach and they need to be addressed individually.

Patients

Patients, by nature, are the most vulnerable of the user groups in hospitals. They need care and protection at all times. Access to intensive care units and other rooms where completely bed-ridden patients are recuperating, needs to be controlled very diligently. Then there are patients who need to stay at the hospital for extended periods of time due to prolonged treatment for their ailments. They too need a certain level of security during their stay.

Staff

Hospital staff needs more access control privileges than other categories of users. Health personnel, including doctors, are exposed to the threats in emergency rooms, pharmaceutical stores, walking through quiet, deserted hospital corridors and other highly sensitive hospital areas.

Doctors and nurses need to be able to enter the staff rooms as well as the operating theatres at most times of the day. The maintenance staff needs access to the HVAC room while the catering staff needs access to the kitchen and pantry. Cleaners need to visit almost all rooms at fixed times of the day. In addition to access control, time and attendance records are required to be maintained for all hospital staff.

Students and volunteers

Students and volunteers together form a large group of the users in hospitals.

Typically they need to be able to enter the patients' rooms at all times of the day, but operating theatres, computer rooms and other restricted areas only at certain times of the day. The system has to be smart enough to keep track of when a student or volunteer is due to cease visiting the hospital and accordingly terminate his or her access control rights at the right moment. Access control cards can meet the requirements of this category of user.

Contractors and delivery people

Typically, contractors and delivery people need to visit the hospital on a daily or weekly basis and leave the premises within a short time.

Their access control needs are not as involved as those of the other groups. The hospital may even provide a separate entrance to the premises to this group.

Visitors

Hospital administrators need to be aware that the control of physical access to the facility is absolutely necessary.

Visitors do require security, but this should only be done through doors monitored by a physical presence. All other doors should be kept locked at all times and controlled electronically. This includes controlling access into and out of the hospital (particularly after normal daylight hours) as well as freedom of movement within the hospital facility.

Parking requirements

Staff

Hospital staff needs more parking privileges than other categories of users. They need to be provided reserved parking spaces close to the hospital building. Entry to the reserved lot should be fast and easy.

Proximity card technology is ideal for this group of users. The cost of providing such a system is determined by the number of entry and exit lanes and types of technology to be employed.

Students and volunteers

Students and volunteers need to use the parking lot on a regular basis for limited periods of time. However, they do not require specially reserved parking space like the hospital staff.

Students can also be issued proximity cards for entering and exiting the parking areas, which can be made invalid on completion of their course or cessation of their services.

Contractors and delivery people

As the contractors and delivery people need to visit the hospital on a daily or weekly basis and leave the premises within a short time, the hospital may provide a separate parking and loading/offloading area to this group.

Visitors

Hospitals have found that visitor parking fees have resulted in the developing of parking lots and structures paying for themselves, and are also subsidising many aspects of their operating budget. But in order to accomplish this, a well-designed parking revenue control system is mandatory. The revenue collected thus on a daily basis demands the tracking of issuance and collection of tickets; accurate audits be maintained of fees collected; and overnight inventories are monitored.

In conclusion

One of the most important requirements for having a smoothly running access control system at a hospital is to choose the correctly designed system from the outset. A poorly designed system could be a major cause of many post-installation problems, which could cost the organisation a lot of time, labour and money.

From the Hospital Handbook - How to Design Automated Access & Parking Systems for Medical Center Campuses, www.amtel-security.com




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