When my 4-year-old son required hospitalization in March, the parent in me was happy with the facility. But the editor in me paid close attention to security systems and procedures, seeking holes—ways intruders could dodge the system and gain access.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I was given a plastic badge with my son’s room number printed on its face. In return, they held my driver’s license. En route to the elevator, I passed a security guard who carefully scrutinized my green badge. Once on the pediatric floor, I had to identify myself to a nurse, as she squinted to read my badge.
Had there been no nurse at the station, could I have waltzed right by and into my son’s room? No. I learned later that the reception desk downstairs called to let them know I was coming, so they opened the doors for me. A quick examination of the entryway revealed a set of automatic doors securing the entire floor (only one way in and out). An intercom box hung on the wall outside the ward, which nurses use to identify visitors before releasing the automatic lock with the push of a button.
Infants on the floor donned electronic ankle devices that set off an alarm if they breach the doorway. It reminded me of the time a department store clerk failed to remove a similar device from a sweater I purchased. I still hear that alarm in my nightmares.
Locks, the combinations to which are known only by authorized personnel, protected various rooms and medicine cabinets. In my overall assessment, this particular healthcare facility had taken every precaution to protect my child.
On the pediatric floor, heavy security isn’t new, though. After harsh criticism in recent years for lax security, particularly after abductions or infant deaths, administrators improved systems and policies. Now, the remaining areas of medical facilities are garnering attention. Healthcare-related buildings across the country are forced in this post-9/11 consciousness to ramp up security to thwart terrorism, which could come via conventional bombs or in a stealthier biological or chemical variety. Regardless of a threat’s form, the healthcare establishment must prepare for it.
Protecting patients represents only a fraction of the battle. Labs and research areas remain susceptible to biological attacks and possible theft of diseases and antidotes. These same healthcare administrators must also prepare their personnel as first responders to all forms of terrorist attacks. It’s not an enviable position. Healthcare leaders need partners to usher them through the technological options available to them to improve security.
Administrators and facility managers need systems integrators, electrical contractors, voice/data/video (VDV) contractors and a host of engineers, consultants and other well-trained professionals to deliver solutions that accomplish requisite levels of security. See the various examples of that type of cooperation on the pages that follow. These examples demonstrate how cooperation and clear communication result in the security of today’s healthcare infrastructure.