Hospital security strategies

From the front door to the loading dock, healthcare security measures should be visible and abundant


Terrorism: Large medical centers with research facilities may be using Cesium 137 Blood Irradiators. Recent world events have raised a concern that the radioactive material in them could be used by terrorists to construct a so-called "dirty bomb."

The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Committee) has mandated strict requirements - some of which include biometric access controls with alarm detection and video assessment, background checks for personnel with access to the materials, assessment and response capabilities; transportation controls; and Information protection.

Laboratory Security: Hospitals with research capabilities will probably also have laboratories and vivariums that house the animals that are used as part of their research. These areas also require stringent access control not only from a security perspective but also to ensure that these areas are maintained within a controlled environment.

Card Access Solutions

As one of the most common card technologies, the magnetic stripe has been in use for many years in the healthcare environment due to their relatively low cost. Today, with higher associated maintenance costs, many healthcare campuses are installing new proximity card readers that provide more functionality combined with less maintenance.

Proximity cards are read rapidly and easily by simply presenting the cards within a prescribed distance to the reader. Magnetic stripe cards require the motion of "swiping" or insertion, which at times necessitates several attempts for a valid read. In vital applications such as in a hospital - where time to access an area could involve a life-and-death situation - the proximity readers certainly provide the superior functionality.

For hospitals contemplating a switch to proximity, dual-technology cards (magnetic stripe and proximity) would provide a solution during the transition period to support the older technology while moving to the more reliable, higher functionality.

For years, many healthcare facilities have relied on multiple card credentials to fulfill different tasks. It is still not unusual to enter a hospital and find staff members wearing multiple badges for various reasons. Many hospitals are contemplating and switching to a smart card to create a one-card solution. Using both contact and contactless smart chip technologies, a single credential can handle a bar code for inventory control, a photo of the employee for identification, a dollar value for use in the cafeteria, a biometric template for data protection in the IT department, and proximity technology for access control.

Video Solutions

The application of video cameras in most healthcare facilities is used primarily as an investigative tool to assist in the review of an incident that has occurred. Video cameras provide additional and remote "eyes" that enable minimal security staff to observe multiple remote locations, either in real-time or recorded for future review. They are also an overt reminder that a security system is present. Where possible, camera views should be associated with alarm conditions to assist in alarm assessment. For instance, upon an alarm condition on the infant monitoring system, associated camera views can automatically be displayed at the pediatric ward nurse's station, the lobby security post and the hospital's security response center.

Healthcare facilities typically record and store camera views on computer hard drives for at least 31 days. These computers or digital/network video recorders have the capability of residing on the hospital's IT network or on a private network dedicated to security.

Unlike analog video cameras that rely on point-to-point cabling, IP or network cameras are designed to transmit over a network where video signals and power are transmitted on the same cable. IP cameras are becoming a popular and an important part of the healthcare security infrastructure due to their cost-effective ease of installation.

Video Analytics is a fairly new technology which has been applied in the healthcare environment. Examples of video analytics applications include: counting the number of people entering a hospital's lobby door or vehicles entering a hospital's parking lot.