Security from the Front Door to the Bedside 

Updated on May 9, 2023
Staff In Busy Lobby Area Of Modern Hospital

All aspects of the global healthcare industry have been impacted by the pandemic and the digital transformation it accelerated; creating not only challenges, but also, as noted in Deloitte’s 2022 Global Health Care Outlook, “a powerful opportunity for the healthcare sector to reinvent itself.”   

Video surveillance technologies have advanced with digitization, opening new opportunities for healthcare organizations to use data gathered by video management systems (VMS) in combination with data from access control systems (ACS), automatic license plate readers (ALPR), communication systems, sensors and more — not only to protect buildings and people, but also to improve efficiency and the patient experience. 

Increasing security teams’ operational efficiency and mitigating cyber-threats 

Patient throughput is the primary measure of efficiency in a healthcare facility, and optimizing it falls across many departments. Unifying physical security solutions to centralize data can help security teams function more efficiently, and information technology (IT) teams mitigate cyber-threats. When data is centralized through a unified physical security platform and viewed in a single pane of glass, the opportunities to respond faster and more efficiently can reach across departments. 

Greater visibility helps security teams work more efficiently 

The sheer number of false alarms in the healthcare setting, both at the bedside and overhead, has created a concerning desensitization which directly impacts the efficiency of security resources. The Canadian Medical Association reported that 85-90% of alerts that signal through hospitals are considered false alarms and don’t require intervention.  

Unifying security cameras, door sensors, access events and IoT devices can dramatically reduce the number of false alarms, while viewing that data centrally and in real time can help teams respond faster to true alarms. The reduction in noise and alarms also benefits caregivers, staff, patients, and visitors in the hospital. 

A unified physical security platform can also help security teams intervene in the event of violence against staff or patients, recognize the license plates of delivery trucks, visitors and staff, to permit or deny access, or secure medicine cabinets. It can even help teams maintain compliance with healthcare regulations and improve facility planning to increase patient throughput and staff satisfaction. When communication management capabilities are part of a unified platform, clinicians and staff can see and speak to patients remotely, to validate that they are scheduled for appointments before granting them access to a building.  

 And for larger hospital complexes, federating systems can centralize multiple campus views into one security operations center (SOC) increasing the operational efficiency of physical security teams on a large scale.  

Unified physical security solutions can help IT teams protect against cyberattacks 

As healthcare organizations migrate sensitive data to new networks, add IoT devices to their networks, and enable remote work and mobile devices, the risk of cybersecurity breaches grows along with the larger ‘attack surface.’ The increasing use of technology in the health field has led to a rise in data breaches and cyber-threats in hospitals. 

For the twelfth consecutive year, the healthcare industry has the highest data breach costs, paying an average of US$ 10.10 million for a data breach in 2022, up more than nine percent from 2021. The information accessed through these data breaches is extremely sensitive, and needs to be thoroughly protected.  

Physical security and information security are linked. There’s no difference in the result whether a hacker accesses an organization’s server rooms physically, or through a video surveillance camera, a piece of HVAC equipment, or an employee’s laptop. A collaborative IT and physical security team can develop a comprehensive program based on a common understanding of risk, responsibilities, strategies, and practices.  

To meet the challenges of a changing healthcare landscape, organizations must modernize their security infrastructure, working with unified core systems like VMS, ACS, ALPR, and communications management on an open platform built from the ground up as one, seamless solution.  

Contributing to a safer work environment 

Hospitals are complex environments and the needs of all stakeholders are equally important. One of the greater challenges the healthcare industry is facing right now is workplace violence. Four global health organizations surveyed their members and found that almost 60% had seen an increase in reported cases of violence against their workforces during the pandemic. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workers in health care and social services experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence and are five times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall. 

This disturbing trend, along with sick leaves, absenteeism, and resignations, is leaving departments and units with skeleton staffs. At the same time, demand for healthcare is consistent and rising, and no matter the staff-to-patient ratio, proper care must be delivered. A unified physical security platform can help healthcare organizations address violence in their environments. 

When security systems are unified, operators in control centers can pool data and leverage multiple sources to see different angles and understand different aspects of an incident. This makes investigating incidents, like unruly visitors, quicker. It also streamlines processes, like managing access badges for staff, making them simpler. 

Having real-time views of data from multiple VMS and ACS centralized on a single viewing pane also facilitates quicker responses to help deescalate violent or stressful situations, offering better protection to staff, patients, and visitors. A unified security platform can also include interactive mapping capabilities. These are important in helping staff visualize events, locate security devices and operators close by, pull up cameras, unlock doors, or activate other devices — all from the same intuitive interface. 

Outside the facility walls, data from ALPR systems can be combined with VMS data to help identify unexpected deliveries, investigate suspicious vehicle activity, or monitor parking areas to ensure staff and patients are safe on hospital grounds. In addition to an extra level of security, these views can help organizations optimize traffic flow. 

Privacy is paramount 

While data from unified physical security systems can provide valuable insight to helps create a safe, efficient environment, healthcare organizations must also pay close attention to data privacy. Regulations establish a minimum standard for how personal data should be stored and managed, but organizations can do more than the minimum.  

A modern VMS include features to help you ensure that only authorized people access the data, and to control and monitor how they can access it. VMS should also include privacy protection capabilities, which can pixelate people in videos to blur identity and provide audit trails to ensure there is a record of who accessed data and when. For example, with this capability, staff can monitor room usage and availability while maintaining patient privacy.  

Using the full value of security systems to improve patient experience 

Positive patient experience serves as a key performance indicator for all corners of a hospital, from the emergency room to outpatient clinics. With compensation, reimbursement, and even quality outcomes often linked to patient feedback, healthcare organizations must place patient experience at the top of their priority list. Managing the impact of staff shortages, workplace violence, and cyberattacks so they don’t affect patients is critical. A unified security system can help healthcare organizations address these challenges and improve patient experience.  

Patients want assurances that site security and visitor access are properly managed. From video surveillance to physical access control features, a unified platform should enhance the clinical experience, provide peace of mind and enable the patient to concentrate on getting back to good health. Family and friends want to know that their loved ones are safe while receiving treatment or recovering from an illness away from home, and they want to experience well-organized access environments when visiting. This is especially true in the evening or other times when visiting is restricted. Authorized visitors should be able to easily access facilities to visit loved ones without delay or excessive screening processes. 

One of the key elements to ensuring patient satisfaction is the frequency of communication between patient and clinicians. Adding in-room video intercoms to an open, unified security platform enables caregivers the ability to conduct routine patient check-ins remotely. They can speak with patients, visually confirm their status, and determine care needs, without having to leave the nursing station or wasting personal protective equipment (PPE). This experience can leave both patients and staff feeling empowered. 

Healthcare administrators face increasingly difficult challenges. In this environment, they must secure facilities and campuses and provide uncompromised service. Unified, open security solutions are a source of untapped resources that can serve them in this mission. The key that unlocks these resources is a collaborative approach—Security, Facilities, and IT departments must work together to create unified security strategies that not only enable faster responses to security threats, but also improve efficiency and enhance the patient experience.   

John Joyce is the Director of Sales, Enterprise Markets, at Genetec, managing all sales activities and personnel for Enterprise Private Markets in the U.S. East Coast region. Prior to joining Genetec in 2008 John gained more than 28 years of security industry experience with manufacturers of video, access control, and intelligence solutions.

John Joyce

John Joyce is the Director of Sales, Enterprise Markets, atGenetec. He managessales activities and personnel for Enterprise Private Markets in the U.S. East Coast region. Prior to joining Genetec in 2008 John gained more than 28 years of security industry experience with manufacturers of video, access control, and intelligence solutions.