Many hospitals across the U.S. are taking a closer look at how to reduce vulnerabilities to criminal activity in their facilities. A variety of measures—from increasing the physical security presence, to improved visitor and vendor access protocols, to video monitoring are key to improving safety for patients and staff. Today’s healthcare facilities face a challenging array of increasing crime and tighter regulations, leaving security staff and administrators looking for economically feasible ways to protect people, property, and sensitive medical records in facilities that are open to the public 24/7.
Studies show an increase in assaults and other violent incidents in hospitals and healthcare facilities over the past 10-15 years, including one published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that noted 154 shootings in or just outside of U.S hospitals from 2000-2011. An increase in the use of recreational drugs that often influence other medications used by patients is one culprit for the increase in violence, as well as the rising number of high-risk patients hospitals admit routinely—patients who may be suicidal, homicidal, or otherwise unable to care for themselves.
According to a report from the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) the number of healthcare crimes in U.S. hospitals rose nearly 37 percent between 2012-2013, from 15,000 in 2012 to more than 20,500 in 2013. Numbers like these have motivated hospital administrators to examine new approaches to controlling public and vendor access in a way that would provide family members liberal access to visit loved ones, while tightening access for vendors and other guests.
Paper sign-in guest books are being replaced with sophisticated, hi-tech registration systems that screen, dispense ID badges, and track every visitor and vendor at the facility’s entrance. Systems like Veristream’s iVisitor healthcare system allows administrators to meet all compliance demands, protect an unlimited number of buildings and departments, track visitors in real time against patient admissions and discharges, allow patients to easily add friends and family to a pre-approved visitor list, manage the comings and goings of contractors and vendors, and create multiple levels of access to keep unauthorized visitors and employees out of areas they don’t belong.
Hospital security measures can support watch lists of unwanted visitors, and offer the ability to produce durable, long-term, visitor badges for family members who expect to visit a patient often over a prolonged period of time.
Another step hospitals are taking to improve management of vendor and contractor protocols, while improving patient safety and reducing costs, is to establish clearly defined policies regarding direct vendor access to operating rooms and other sensitive areas of the hospital, and enhancing credentialing standards and protocols for vendors and sales reps.
Video surveillance is another security measure that not only protects hospital staff and patients from breaches in security, it can provide useful visual information that can save the hospital money.
Video surveillance, which can be monitored remotely and provide digital storage capabilities, can help prevent crimes and break-ins, be used to monitor agitated or disturbed patients—as well as visitors who wander into unauthorized areas, monitor worker productivity, improve communications between departments and buildings, provide visual evidence for patients or visitors who file claims for injuries on hospital property, resolve employee disputes, allow authorized hospital personnel to monitor critical areas in real time from their personal computers, store recorded footage digitally on network servers, hard-drives or NVRs, and provide visual evidence for criminal activity investigations and other events.
Ultimately, excellent security measures help improve the hospital-patient customer experience, enhance working conditions for staff members, and alleviate the risks to which so many hospitals are vulnerable without security measures in place.