Hospital Security Roundtable

A look at the trends in hospital security, with input from top healthcare security directors


Consultants suggest that, because so many hospitals are run by a purely budget-driven administration, a proposal for high-tech security implementations is faced by a single question: "How many jobs can I cut from security to pay for this?" Perhaps the answer to this myopic approach lies in educating the administration on the benefits of combining the power of manned security with electronic security measures.

We asked several industry experts to comment on the hospital security issues for 2002. The respondents are: Carl H. Magovero, CHPA, director of security services for Cook Children's Health Care System, Ft. Worth, Tex.; Bill Farnsworth, CHPA, director of safety and security at St. Vincent's Health System, Jacksonville, Fla; Anthony N. Potter, CHPA, CPP, CST, FAAFS, member at large of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety and president of Anthony Potter and Associates Inc. healthcare security and safety consultants; and Lee Matthews, Interim Executive Director at IAHSS and former security manager at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. These four experts make a strong case for layered hospital security in the coming year and beyond.

ST&D: What do you see as the most significant changes in hospital security issues for 2002?

Farnsworth: I see the reaction to, and preparation for, weapons of mass destruction in the wake of terrorist activities, and bringing the HIPAA regulations on-line.

Mogavero: The September 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax scares have changed the focus for many hospitals from an open-campus philosophy to one that is more guarded. Doors once used for entry and exit have been locked. I don't remember a time in my experience, until recently, when we did drills to see how quickly we could lock down the campus to keep people in and out of our buildings.

Potter: Demand for additional security in response to September 11 will be more than offset by continued cost-containment efforts in response to reductions in reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and insurance carriers. Security needs will continue to expand, but there will be fewer resources (FTEs and capital expenditures for equipment) to meet them.
The security director that identifies and provides value-added services (safety, fire prevention, haz-mat, parking, telecommunications, etc.) and reduces operating costs will be perceived as a valuable asset by top management. Others will see their budgets cut and even their positions eliminated.

Matthews: After September 11, healthcare security practitioners faced preparation for emergencies that were rarely considered in the past. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has required healthcare practitioners to have bomb threat plans in place for some time. The new challenge is integrating bio-chem devices into the plan. Revising emergency plans and adding decontamination and perimeter security are occupying a lot of time and energy. Security systems improvements such as instituting the use of card access and the hardening of access points to more completely prohibit unauthorized access may have to wait until federal dollars for homeland defense trickle down. Integration and drilling with municipal authorities is a key factor these days.

ST&D: How do you create an atmosphere that is comfortable and non-threatening while still maintaining an appropriate level of security?

Farnsworth: While it is perfectly possible to provide the strictest level of security to any given hospital, it is highly debatable whether that hospital will have any customers under those strict conditions. It is extremely easy to provide very high levels of security that are well disguised. Security officers in blazers and ties; locked and monitored doors controlled by pleasant, polite and intelligent care givers; and security officers disguised as Patient Advocates in emergency rooms are just a few examples of heightened security with a comfortable look and feel.

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