Creating a safe and secure hospital environment that also promotes healing means turning away from traditional options, such as guards with stun guns, and toward technology to meet the ever-multiplying security needs of healthcare facilities.


“Security plays a role in a healthcare facility’s financial performance; patient satisfaction; patient, staff and asset safety and security; staff productivity; and regulatory compliance,” said Warren Rosebraugh, director of healthcare solution architects for Schneider Electric, Palatine, Ill.


At the core of such a security system lies access control and video surveillance systems and mass notification and wireless duress systems that are used with real-time location systems for staff and infant protection and patient elopement, said Bill Aheimer, area sales manager for Tyco IS Advanced Services, Norristown, Pa.


“These technologies deal with the hot-button security issues in healthcare facilities, including workplace violence, elopement and behavioral patient safety, and active shootings,” he said.


To provide the desired security, however, all of these different systems must work together and be integrated in a way that enables them to operate efficiently and effectively. 


“Except for access control and CCTV systems, healthcare facilities do not have a lot of system integration,” said Ben Scaglione, director of healthcare security services for G4S, Jupiter, Fla. 


Some manufacturers, however, are beginning to provide integrated infant protection, closed-circuit TV (CCTV) and alarm systems. 


“Infant protection, in particular to hospitals, and integration of those devices with the access control system is essential to being able to lock down the facility upon alarm activation, while still enabling certain staff to access certain areas during the event,” Scaglione said. 


In addition, access control is increasingly being integrated with the door-locking system in emergency rooms to contain biological hazards or manage other crises.


Beyond connecting with each other, security devices in a healthcare facility also are being integrated with phone systems and the wireless nurse call system (to enable them to serve as panic buttons or for emergency communication), and with building automation systems and elevator control. 


“In addition,” Rosebraugh said, “The facility’s security system can also easily be integrated with the fire detection, real-time location and pneumatic tube systems as well as the [uninterruptible power supply], power monitoring and lighting control systems.”


The contractual documents should define the level of integration the facility needs to ensure it is fulfilled, Rosebraugh said. 


“Otherwise, the industry will continue its habit of value-engineering-out the integration that was perhaps intended but never required in the bid documents,” he said.


The integration itself is attained though software, preferably in an open-end architecture, to ensure that the different technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) used in real-time location systems or digital Internet protocol (IP) video surveillance systems, operate easily and seamlessly. Control is then centralized with redundancy to reduce staff and equipment costs as well as the long-term cost of ownership.


“It’s too costly for each location of a healthcare campus to have its own integrated system with monitoring and guards,” Tyco’s Aheimer said.


Contractor’s challenges


Rosebraugh said Integration means more opportunity for contractors. When the security, lighting control, power metering and building management installations are bid separately, the customer’s cost is higher. 


“Integration means that redundant wiring and installation costs are eliminated, and a single contractor can be selected to perform the entire installation,” he said.


One of the biggest difficulties Scaglione sees for contractors is the industry’s tendency to pick the products or systems that are best for them and not necessarily best for the healthcare facility.


“Contractors need to discuss the facility’s needs and desired security levels with the client to design and implement a system that is interoperable and that seamlessly enables staff to effectively monitor the access control, door hardware, or CCTV system operations,” he said, adding that contractors should partner with the existing security department and the facility’s security product vendor to get a sense of what already exists and what else is needed to fulfill the project.


“If neither exists, the contractor can partner with a product-knowledgeable consultant that represents the security needs of the hospital or clinic,” Scaglione said.


Finally, contractors need to understand that the wireless technology so prevalent in today’s security installations does, in fact, affect them greatly and actually puts a premium on space in the electrical and telecommunications closets.


“Wireless devices communicate through receivers and panels that need to be powered and that need clean, reliable, conditioned and back-up emergency power and other redundancies,” Aheimer said. 


ECs that understand wireless devices and their power and wiring requirements are in a position to leverage their integration expertise.