At the Frontline: Memorial Hermann security chief Joseph Bellino

Bellino discusses how he’s helping keep Texas' largest healthcare system safe


When it comes to protecting against a myriad of threats, the healthcare sector has proven to be one of the most challenging security environments. Not only does a hospital security manager have to secure equipment, medicine and personal data, they must also strike a delicate balance between patient care and ensuring that the safety and security measures they have in place are adequate.

The healthcare market has certainly seen its share of security challenges over the past year. In addition to numerous data breaches that have put patient information at risk, there have also been physical acts of violence reported at hospitals across the country in recent months, particularly in parking lots. In November, a woman was shot and killed in the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center parking garage and last month, a man was seriously injured after being shot in a parking deck at a hospital in Dalton, Ga.

Despite advancements in technology, securing newborn babies also remains a challenge at hospitals. Last week, police say a woman disguised herself as a nurse and attempted to steal a baby at a metro Atlanta area hospital.

One security executive who is tackling these issues head on every day is Joseph V. Bellino, system executive, security, for the Memorial Hermann healthcare system in Houston, Texas. Memorial Hermann is the largest healthcare system in Texas, consisting of 13 hospitals, 27 medical office buildings and more than 135 other facilities such as outpatient imaging and physical rehabilitation centers.

In this "At the Frontline" interview, Bellino discusses how he's addressing these various security challenges and the evolution of healthcare security as a whole.

SIW: What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Memorial Hermann?

Bellino: As a system executive, I am responsible for oversight of the whole security management program here for Memorial Hermann. Anything like command and control during a weather emergency and working with our top executives to corporate-wide investigations, training, selection and recruitment, just total oversight of the day-to-day operations. I have over 300 security officers and law enforcement officers on staff here.

SIW: What are some of the biggest threats that you have to mitigate against as a hospital security director?

Bellino: I think the biggest challenge for us is workplace violence because we're dealing with patients and their families and we have to take care of them. Sometimes that can be very difficult because we're not a police state; we're not a police organization even though we have police officers and security officers. You just can't arrest people because they're being difficult. We have to find ways to deal with difficult people in a humane manner so we can provide them the healthcare they need and then move them out of the system and back into the community, either to their homes or outpatient treatment.

Working with risk management, our legal team and the privacy office to maintain and assist in the total security of PHI (protected health information) is also a challenge. We assist here in helping with protection of PHI and protecting out patients' privacy. The other thing is just dealing with the routine crimes we have. Making sure that we're following up, trying to track and trend any issues. Auto theft is a big (issue) with staff and one is too many, but we've really worked hard to reduce the number of auto thefts throughout the system and we've done a really good job in reducing auto thefts but they still happen. Our goal is to get to zero auto thefts and vehicle break-ins and we've reduced, exponentially, the number of auto thefts and break-ins on our campuses.

And then, of course, there is pilferage and making sure we have the proper procedures in place to prevent equipment, supplies, materials, patient property and all of those types of things from leaving our facilities. Like anybody else, we're trying to do more with less. Everybody is getting squeezed and everybody has been asked to become more efficient.

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