Tackling Employee Safety in our Hospitals Through Technology

Updated on September 28, 2023

The risk of incidents in the workplace, particularly in the healthcare sector, has become more pronounced in recent years. According to the American Hospital Association, a significant number of nurses, about 44%, have reported instances of physical violence, while an even larger percentage, 68%, have encountered verbal abuse, particularly during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is attributed, in part, to reduced staffing levels, diverse patient populations, and evolving visitation restrictions that were put in place during the pandemic.

In reality, hospitals across the country witness a daily occurrence of both violent and non-violent safety incidents. Ensuring the safety of essential workers has become a growing concern. Drawing from our experience within the healthcare industry, we have identified five critical considerations that hospital leaders should take into account when selecting the most optimal and impactful safety technology solutions for the well-being of both hospital staff and patients.

Ease of Use and Access

One of the first considerations for evaluating incident response platforms is: How are employees notified of an incident? Intercoms are used frequently in hospital settings. But emergency messages can become lost among other announcements and the day-to-day noise of a hospital floor. Listening to instructions on an intercom can become difficult, or impossible, in an emergency, especially if anyone panics. Additionally, many incidents of workplace violence in clinical settings involve attacks from patients. Some of these incidents can be escalated unintentionally by the emergency response. 

An alert system that includes discreet, wearable staff badges with one duress button can be an ideal option for a healthcare setting. With a wearable badge, employees are not obligated to leave the room or use an intercom (or their own raised voice) to request help. Staff members can rapidly and discreetly request backup without interrupting patient care—and without further escalating the situation.

Precise Location Detection and Floor- and Room-Level Mapping

In the most critical scenarios, rapid and precise identification of the event’s location by responders is paramount. Safety technology that incorporates real-time maps of the interior and exterior building, individual floors, rooms, nursing stations, hallways, stairways, and other workflow areas is ideal. Response teams can identify precisely where the situation is taking place and who is requesting help, and can direct the closest staff member, security,  or law enforcement officer to that exact location.

Room mapping also takes into account the presence of hazardous materials or equipment. The primary concern is safety: how might each of these elements cause injuries or accidents? By analyzing these elements in advance, hospitals protect staff members, patients, and visitors from preventable accidents and injuries. With room-level mapping, hospitals, and business owners can reduce risk and the often burdensome costs associated with workplace injuries and accidents.

Connection Sources and Continuous Campus-Wide Coverage

Hospitals, in particular, often face the challenge of insufficient or unreliable cellular signals, partly due to their unique structure. Sprawling hospital campuses typically encompass a multitude of structures, incorporating ambulance bays, parking lots and garages, and various facilities, which can obstruct and weaken cellular connectivity. Hospital workers also often work diverse shifts, frequently arriving or departing from the campus during evening hours when there is low visibility. Ensuring their safety campus-wide, particularly in areas like parking lots and garages, is a critical factor. 

When evaluating available safety solutions on the market, healthcare administrators should place a premium on systems that function independently of Wi-Fi networks, like self-contained bluetooth networks, while also guaranteeing thorough coverage across the entire campus. By opting for such tools, healthcare facilities can significantly bolster the dependability and effectiveness of their incident alert system, providing employees with a reliable means of staying connected and seeking assistance in emergency situations, even during the late to very early hours.

Installation Requirements

Whether you’re in a hospital, surgery center, clinic, or long-term care facility, medical emergencies can happen at any moment. Changes to infrastructure aren’t always feasible and can take months to complete. Safety platforms and technology tools that can be installed with no alterations to physical structure or electrical wiring, and can be completed with minimal disruption to patient care, are ideal in a hospital or healthcare setting. 

Automated, Robust Safety Data Reporting

Gathering data about workplace safety incidents is critical for understanding how best to support healthcare employees and facilities. Detailed information about the timing, location, and nature of workplace violence incidents can guide administrators in supporting their workers and preventing future incidents.

A healthcare safety platform that includes an effective way to gather data provides administrators with the insight required to allocate resources in a way most likely to keep caregivers safe, healthy, and satisfied with their workplace. Having immediate and easy access to healthcare campus data through a dashboard can give administrators the moment-by-moment information needed to understand the trends happening on their campus. Understanding where and when incidents occur can also help inform strategic decisions to allocate resources to facilitate optimization of the workforce, which can ultimately improve staff retention and patient satisfaction.  

Furthermore, robust data reporting features equip leaders with actionable insights to support staff and patients effectively. Safety platforms featuring analytics reporting help hospital administrators comprehend safety platform usage and facility trends, aiding compliance with reporting requirements such as those in H.R. 1195.

The healthcare industry is dedicated to enhancing safety strategies for the protection of both staff and patients, encompassing incidents ranging from everyday occurrences to extreme situations. While numerous solutions exist in the market to bolster safety, hospital administration should prioritize three indispensable factors when choosing new technology: prevention, preparedness, and response. These considerations are imperative to ensure the efficient integration of technology and to effectively address the comprehensive safety requirements of the healthcare facility.

As healthcare workers continue to put their safety on the line, it is imperative to equip facilities with multiple layers of safety and security. These measures create an environment where staff, patients, and visitors can feel secure and supported, prioritizing their well-being while they carry out their essential roles.

Ashley Phillips Blanke
Ashley Blanke

Ashley Blanke, Vice President of Healthcare at CENTEGIX, has over 20 years of extensive experience in the healthcare, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Through her work with healthcare organizations has developed specific expertise on the unique challenges facing the healthcare landscape, more specifically workplace violence, including emerging trends and accreditation requirements, and best practices for fostering a safer work environment for all healthcare workers. 

Christopher Sica
Chris Sica

Chris Sica, Vice President of Healthcare at CENTEGIX, is an experienced professional with over 25 years of experience in healthcare sales organizations, holding various individual contributor and leadership positions. In addition to his career experience, he has also been involved in round tables with Healthcare Administrators and Security professionals from some of the largest health systems in the U.S., showcasing his commitment to addressing the issue of violence in healthcare.