Choices include surveillance, access control and location

Safety and security systems for any healthcare facility are complex. There are so many “systems” available that it is quite daunting to decide which ones are worth the investment.

Most hospitals already have substantial systems in place to handle the vast amounts of voice and data traffic that routinely flows through the networks, so the systems that support safety and security functions are extensions of those that are already in existence.

One of the obstacles that security professionals at these types of facilities have to deal with is the fact that not only are they trying to monitor who enters the facility, but also who remains inside. There are various individuals constantly entering and exiting and the systems need to be able to handle such activity.

Certain hospitals could pass as a small city. Take, for instance, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. This facility employs roughly 14,000 people, treats 35,000 inpatients per year and attends to the needs of more than 1 million people annually. Though most hospitals are much smaller than this, the principle remains the same—the traffic flowing in and out 365 days per year poses some inherent problems when it comes to safety and security.

There are systems available for just about every security concern under the sun. Security systems can include things such as exterior lighting, two-way radio communications, employee identification tags, etc. While there are ample options, some of the more popular choices include:

Surveillance systems

Closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance was perhaps the granddaddy of all hospital security systems. As hospitals grew in size, more advanced methods of surveillance were needed, ones that were not so dependent on human performance.

Video surveillance and IP video surveillance systems have taken center stage when it comes to visual surveillance of both patients and visitors. Actually, the IP option seems to be leading the way since it has added features such as allowing for the hospitals security system to be directly linked to police and rescue agencies that may need to have immediate, real-time access to the information in order to assess the situation prior to responding. These higher-tech options took what CCTV started and added capabilities such as motion detection activation and the ability to link the system in with others as a means of checks and balances.

Access control systems

The systems in this category have dual functionality—not only are they designed and used to keep people out, but in some instances they are meant to keep people in as well. Access systems can be installed in a variety of places, but they should all communicate with one another and route the information back to a main server so that information can be stored and accessed as needed.

Some of the more common areas where access control systems are installed (be it in a hospital, healthcare facility, doctors office, etc.) include drug storage areas, critical care units, nurseries, trauma wards, main entrance areas and various others depending upon the facility itself, as each has its own list of areas that need to be barred from access by anyone other than those that have been given the go-ahead.

These systems can include card readers, keypad access control, biometrics and even the new RFID technology. Long gone are the days when locks and keys were ample ways to secure items.

Location systems

The most revolutionary type in this category is perhaps the infant abduction detection system. Though the problem may not be as prevalent as other security threats, there is a problem with newborn abduction from hospitals.

Another specific system in this class would be patient location systems that help detect the exact location of a patient within the hospital facility itself. This is beneficial to healthcare professionals, especially if patients need to be monitored not only for medical reasons, but also for their own personal safety. A good example would be an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who was staying in a general hospital to recover from surgery. This patient would need to be monitored so that they did not wander away, but it also provides a patient with some freedom to move around since they can easily be located.

Both of these examples rely on identification tags that are worn by the patients themselves and they are not much different than those that are used to track and monitor criminals. The technology hones in on the signal emitted from the device and it can instantaneously locate the person wearing the tag.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.