Safeguarding Newborns with Automated Infant Protection Systems

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Baby smiling at mother, close-up. Adorable newborn child looking up at mother and holding her hands. Love, innocence, cuteness concept

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By Nick Adriance, Global Product Manager of Safety Solutions at CenTrak

In the United States, an average of five to six infants are abducted each year—and 42.6 percent of these kidnappings happen from healthcare settings. In the case of infant abductions, the typical way this happens is fairly formulaic: a young woman will continually visit the maternity ward of a hospital, memorize the layout, impersonate a nurse, and gain the trust of the new parents. Typically, they will then attempt to escape via a fire exit, undetected.

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To safeguard infants and combat even the chance of an infant abduction, hospitals and other healthcare environments have created policies and procedures as a preventative measure. This includes educating parents, strict staff protocols, and extensive electronic security measures within the buildings themselves. And as technology has grown more sophisticated, healthcare organizations have deployed new strategies to keep children safe. 

In recent years, developments in technology have pushed infant protection to new levels. These automated infant protection systems are comprehensive solutions that improve upon existing electronic ID systems—optimizing security and risk management, and empowering hospital staff to protect their most vulnerable patients.

What is an automated infant protection system?

As the trend of ‘rooming-in’ has taken off across the United States, it has become much more common for new babies to remain with their mothers during the hospital stay, rather than being taken to a nursery area. While this creates opportunities for new mothers to bond with their babies, it also increases security concerns since infants are not being monitored in one single space where security personnel can be easily stationed. As such, hospitals are learning to leverage technology to keep both the child and mother safe from any possible threats.

An automated infant protection system is a comprehensive smart system that is part of a real-time location system (RTLS), a network of sensors that work together to protect the child. The infant wears a small sensor band, attached either to their umbilical cord or ankle, that monitors their location throughout the hospital. Waterproof and tamper-proof, these sensors interact with the network to communicate the baby’s movements. If the sensor is removed, tampered with, or unresponsive, an immediate alert goes out to nurses’ workstations and the event is recorded in the system database. For optimal security, mothers also receive their own sensors that match with the infant’s sensor and reassures parents of the identity of their child. If a baby is brought into the wrong room, the staff receive an immediate notification alerting them to the error. The system ensures further patient safety by alerting staff when an infant strays from the designated transfer or transport route, fails to return to their designated area after a transport, or does not arrive at the receiving unit during a transfer.

These automated infant protection systems optimize security measures and create a real-time tracking network to keep infants safe and with their proper families. These systems can be made even more comprehensive, with added features that can further bolster defense measures, provide clinical-grade locating technology, enhanced accuracy, and extreme reliability.

For a more seamless security experience, implementing an advanced automated infant protection system offers another layer of added security. Utilizing an RTLS with clinical-grade location goes beyond sending simple alerts to security. They offer pinpoint accuracy for optimal location tracking across the entire hospital campus. And this sort of advanced system offers another benefit—it integrates easily with existing security and access systems that the hospital already has in place. In the event of a protected infant leaving an area unauthorized, the system sets off a multi-tiered alarm and cascade of security measures: locking doors, disabling elevators, and capturing video of the incident. 

Hospital staff can also take advantage of these advanced capabilities. Nurse workstations provide maps of the monitored areas, protected exits, and stairwells, and alert nurses if an infant approaches an unauthorized area. They also keep nurses apprised of the infants’ locations in real time. These advanced automated infant protection systems create a protected environment and provides comprehensive monitoring that flags possible threats as they occur, monitors the location of these precious patients, and—if need be—assists security in apprehending the perpetrator.

Choosing the right system

For many hospitals, selecting and implementing new technology can be daunting and there’s often the challenge of selecting a provider that integrates seamlessly with existing systems. As such, finding a solution provider that offers an interoperable, end-to-end automated solution is key. 

Hospitals should also be sure that they’re getting a system that’s accurate and reliable through proper design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Furthermore, choosing a technology provider that offers a suite of RTLS solutions makes any future upgrades seamless. For example, an integrated system could expand beyond infant protection solutions to include staff duress solutions. This addition would protect staff as well as patients.

For new families, staff, and hospitals, protecting infants from any potential threat is a high priority. With advances in location technology and the integration of RTLS with hospital-wide security and monitoring solutions, infant protection has become increasingly comprehensive. As hospital systems adopt these capabilities, newborns will be more secure—providing peace of mind to new parents and hospital staff alike.

Nick Adriance is the Global Product Manager, Safety Solutions at CenTrak, the market leader in locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry and a visionary in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for indoor location services. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. For more information, visit www.centrak.com.

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