Network technology improves hospital security

November 2006 Access Control & Identity Management

NAMC required higher levels of security than were already in place, but, like most healthcare organisations, also needed to find ways to manage costs.

The history

Securing a facility that covers 679 000 square feet and employs more than 975 physicians is no small feat. NAMC's security system consisted of doors with card access, a staff of 10 security officers and a CCTV system for the building. But NAMC was not satisfied with the existing system and needed a solution that would allow it to expand security incrementally, while reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

NAMC's access control system already managed 24 doors, including those leading to high-security areas such as the pharmacy, labour and delivery, and patient records. NAMC's goal was to add 16 doors to the access control system. But the legacy system required a door control panel for every eight doors, and the system's installed control panels were already at maximum capacity. Adding new doors would have meant the expense not just of the card readers, but of the new control panels as well.

NAMC also needed to improve the security staff's ability to monitor the system. Officers had access to the one dedicated access control computer, but the computer was not located in the CCTV monitoring area where the security staff was stationed. In order to check on access alerts, the security officers were required to leave their stations to go to the access control computer and review the problem. As a result, officers were not able to monitor video feeds and hospital staff members were not able to quickly gain access to critical areas of the hospital.

Additionally, NAMC's ID badging system was plagued by inaccuracies and inefficiency. The existing system required two separate databases: one for the information that was seen on the badge, and the second for the access credential records. Information for each database had to be entered separately. Errors due to double-entries jeopardised the effectiveness of the system, and the additional time that it took to enter information twice was a drain on NAMC's resources.

The solution

The security systems integrator understood NAMC's challenges and saw the benefits that could be realised by changing the access control system to a network-based product.

"Recommendation of the S2 NetBox met our requirement for a solution that would allow us to beef up our security system but that was also efficient and would help us to keep costs under control," says Robert Haugland, manager of safety and security for NAMC. "We are always in favour of investigating technology advances and other innovations that will upgrade our systems. Moving to a network-based system opens up tremendous possibilities for the future of security at NAMC."

The S2 NetBox leverages existing network infrastructure and offers increased scalability and flexibility. The system's Web-based architecture provides remote monitoring capabilities from any computer connected to a network and remote access for maintenance. Combined, these factors reduce the cost to install, operate and maintain the system.

The new system

Installing the S2 NetBox was a non-invasive process from start to finish. Six boxes (one housing the main controller, motherboard and several door controllers) and five remote door controlled modules were simply plugged into the hospital's existing IP network. The 24 doors already equipped with card controls were then easily switched from the legacy system to the S2 NetBox.

Next, the 16 new doors that NAMC originally wanted to add were connected to the access control system. Later, as the need arose, NAMC found they could select additional doors and easily add them to the system. The S2 system simplified adding the new doors because the remote panels were easily added in close physical proximity to the new doors, a network connection was always close by and only one additional cable needed to be run.

With the system installed, NAMC's security officers no longer have to rely on a dedicated access control computer and were able to monitor the system without leaving their stations. Because the S2 system employs a Web-based application, it can be monitored from any computer, in any location, that is connected to the Internet. Any employee that has been granted permission to monitor the system can do so from any location.

"That is one of the great features of a Web-based system. Once we purchased the initial system, we had complete control of it," says Haugland. "With our legacy system, we would have needed to purchase additional licenses and install software on any computers that we wanted to add monitoring to. We were not even able to add monitoring to all of our computers with the old system. And if we could have, it would have been too expensive."

NAMC also replaced the ID badging system with the S2 NetBox. Data from the two databases previously required by the legacy system were migrated into the single database used by the S2 NetBox. With the single database design, information now only needs to be entered once. That information is then linked to a photo taken by a camera connected to the S2 NetBox through the network, and the process is complete.

The benefits

Moving to the network-based S2 NetBox immediately streamlined the way security is managed at NAMC. But the technology has also inspired NAMC to develop a new roadmap for future security initiatives.

"When we first began looking at a new system, it was simply an effort to try to reduce the complexity of adding doors," says Haugland. "But after realising what we could do with a network-based system, we realised that the sky is the limit in what we can do to tie-in other systems."

NAMC quickly discovered the S2 NetBox's ability to perform mandatory audits of the access control system. "We have to provide reports concerning access control, such as how many times doors are found unsecured," reports Haugland. "I see a big future with S2 in helping to do proper reporting to the hospital's committees."

NAMC is also moving toward integration of its video surveillance efforts into the S2 NetBox. A solution has been developed for a new network-based camera system to be installed in NAMC's parking lots to augment the facility's existing pan/tilt/zoom cameras. Although the facility was not designed to have cameras in the parking lots, by integrating network-based, wireless cameras with the S2 NetBox, NAMC will be able to connect previously standalone systems to enable remote monitoring.

The move to network-based security has already increased the productivity of the security staff and has improved the level of customer service that the department provides to NAMC's workforce. Maintenance of the system has proven to be just as easy as the initial installation. Since the product is entirely Web-based, problems can be diagnosed and fixed remotely. "That is another critical benefit to moving to a network-based system," adds Haugland. "The fact that our security provider can access our system offsite saves us a lot of downtime."

Fact file

G2 Security, Nichola Allan, +27 (0) 11 462 5700,,

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