Special Focus: Healthcare--Prognosis Positive

A good dose of TLC keeps integrators as trusted partners to healthcare customers. Many systems integrators work years developing ongoing relationships in this segment. They help with security and safety and ongoing training that may include disaster planning and active shooter scenarios. They assist in many ways that go above and beyond traditional systems solution contracting—while at the same time staying on top of numerous regulations and compliance, including privacy concerns and more.

This type of handholding often has a customer coming back to an alarm dealer or systems integrator again and again. The customer knows they can count on the service provider to clue them in on new technologies and systems—that work and often, nix those they know won’t be feasible or within budget. But most of all they keep the lines of communication open and that keeps healthcare clientele ‘sticky’ and coming back for more.

The payback can be big. Having a good relationship often means that a project doesn’t go out for the traditional bid-spec—a scenario that savvy and tuned-in companies try to avoid if at all possible.

Suffice to say, it isn’t easy championing the healthcare market. Each type of facility—hospital, urgent care, assisted living, and on and on, is really a community within itself. The nuances of each location are often indicative of the area in which the facility is based. For example, in high-crime areas, violence and shootings often further erupt in emergency rooms where gang members may seek retaliation, or distraught family members have gathered. Personnel in hospitals—from doctors to nurses to other staff, need to be cared for as well with safety procedures and technology such as video escorts after hours. The dynamics of the healthcare market are riddled with regulations and compliance, codes and standards, enough to make your head spin.

Then there are the visitors to the hospital. There are slip and fall liability issues, contagious disease and containment and ‘hot spots’ such as the aforementioned emergency rooms or drug dispensary areas. In addition, the capital goods at hospitals now include high-tech systems and services, including laptops, tablets, smartphones and other connectivity and communication devices that need to be safeguarded from theft and also meet HIPAA privacy laws so sensitive patient records don’t get into unwanted hands. Bring Your Own Device is another emerging issue—and one that will continue in the forefront as NFC becomes more widespread. The list of safety and security issues for hospitals and healthcare environments continues to evolve.

Guns are another issue that healthcare providers have become acutely aware of and training for active shooters has become a valuable tool for hospital personnel. According to Lisa B. Pryse, CHPA, CPP and president, ODS Healthcare and Chief of Company Police in Richmond, Va., much attention is being given to mitigation against an active shooter situation.

“Many hospitals are determining that they have multiple unimpeded access points into their facilities as well as a significant amount of glass windows and doors at these access points,” she said. Pryse currently is the president of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS), based in Glendale Heights, Ill.

 

The mechanics of working with healthcare

With that in mind, she added that end users at these facilities are looking for affordable access control solutions which meet their needs as well as life safety requirements. “It is imperative that door alarms and CCTV be integrated with access control,” Pryse added.

Physical security in the parking lots and at remote facilities is very important as well, she added. “CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) aligns with the ‘Rings of Security.’ The outer perimeter rings should have some physical security protection (fencing, access control gates for certain areas, CCTV cameras, emergency call boxes, thick shrubs, lighting, etc.). As you move closer to the facility, the physical security should increase (access control doors, alarms, additional CCTV.)”

According to Pryse, end users are looking for a vendor partner who can not only provide the affordable appropriate solutions initially but also provide prompt, necessary service response. “They are looking for a true partner who is genuinely interested in a long-term successful relationship. End users are also concerned with the proprietary nature of various products/systems and the fact that they often do not integrate with existing systems/products,” she added.

Integration between the physical and logical security systems is a high priority (especially for larger healthcare facilities) for visitor management, physical access, network access and human resource systems as well, Pryse said.

 

Integrators share their stories

Many systems integrators specialize in vertical markets, and the healthcare market is tops on their lists, along with education and government. And the work they do seems to run the gamut from new facilities to additional systems solutions for existing healthcare customers who are upgrading or adding to their current properties.

At D/A Central Inc., located in Oak Park, Mich., the 55-year-old company and Security-Net member tags some 25 percent of its business to healthcare, many return customers. Because many of the existing infrastructures of their healthcare providers are due for a technology upgrade, security solutions are topping the wish lists of these customers. Current President and Owner, P. David Shelton started with the company in 1971 and then acquired the growing business in 1984.

The company has been providing services to the medical market for 20-plus years and now, Terry Woycik, systems specialist who focuses on hospitals and healthcare, said many of their existing customers are at the point where they need to upgrade their safety and security.

“Hospitals in the past had been left alone so long that now they are doing security upgrades that include network cabling for their businesses,” he said, “often creating new video networks.” He added that the company’s preference is to have a separate dedicated network for surveillance and security, as it “reduces long-term complexity.”

Of course, according to Eric Stanton, D/A Central sales manager, more systems are IP based within the healthcare facility—from video to access control to panic buttons. “A big concern for hospitals is controlling movement within public areas and providing select access to others. Video is also being deployed more,” he said.

Stanton added that emergency rooms may have metal detectors but more often use video cameras for security. Access control is also used to create interiors that can be secured easily and from the general public or selectively add/deny access to certain personnel. “Hospitals want to know if they can lock down the facility, but it has to be compliant with fire and life safety codes.”

Lock downs may be critically important for emergency rooms and other volatile areas of a facility, and that’s where the issue of guns also comes in. Gang members or distraught family members may try to get retaliation for shootings—so this is an ongoing issue for the healthcare market.

For D/A Central, the proactive relationship building mantra stands strong. “Getting more business in the healthcare market is done by relationship building,” Stanton said. “We aren’t doing a lot of bid work—most of the work we get is because we are a pre-qualified vendor. We deal directly with the owner of the facility—which helps us bypass everyone else and provide the right solution. In the security industry you have to network. If you don’t you won’t go anywhere,” he said.

One of D/A Central’s customers is St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, a 537-bed teaching facility in Ypsilanti, Mich., which recently completed a $600,000 upgrade to its security system, including a new command center which receives feeds from some 280 cameras. D/A Central also handles most of the work for this particular healthcare provider throughout Michigan, according to Stanton.

 

 

According to Ron Poulin, owner of Daytona Broadband LLC in South Daytona, Fla., and a Mobotix reseller, all eyes seem to be on video for the healthcare market.

 

Video plays a critical security role

“End users are continuing to spend on both indoor and outdoor applications by extending video into new departments not already monitored,” Poulin said. “Also, they are adding coverage to parking areas in and around smaller campus buildings housing specialty healthcare services. Recently, most of our work has been in existing facilities rather than new construction,” he said.

Poulin’s story is interesting in that he comes from the IT/networking side of the business as an operations and IT director for a restaurant franchise for 30-plus years. He migrated into the business as a general contractor, starting with IP video exclusively. “But I quickly realized that, especially in a town the size of Daytona, that there were not enough customers able to afford IP. So I backed into analog systems and offer both,” he said.

One of Poulin’s customers is Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington, N.C. The hospital was originally Beaufort County Hospital when he became a vendor there, but about 18 months ago the hospital was purchased by Vidant Health, a not-for-profit chain of about 11 hospitals in the region. He is currently working with the provider to do business with other hospitals in the network.

Poulin said healthcare facilities are looking at video as a valuable security tool. “Some facilities use or are considering the use of tablets with wireless connections to the security network to allow personnel to maintain a view of some of the areas of the campus as they tour.”

Another of Poulin’s recent projects included access control combined with HD video/audio for sensitive areas in a Behaviorial Health department where patients were placed by the judicial system and are technically incarcerated. “The use of high-definition video as well as audio at the entrance doors provides a high level of security as staff can investigate who is requesting entry and for what purpose,” he said. “The same type of system was also installed at a 24-hour rehabilitation facility where security risks can be high, especially during the middle of the night. Along with the staff at the rehab center having the ability to see and hear activities at the door using an iPhone, the security personnel on duty also see activities on the large display in the security office,” Poulin said.

 

The other side of healthcare: controlling costs

While security and safety is an ongoing concern and mandate for healthcare customers, RFI Communications & Security Systems, a Security-Net member based in San Jose, Calif., has found that even though these customers are tightening their belts and cutting costs, they may be educated, through audits, to look at technology as a way to accomplish those goals. “You have to understand the environment and the budget is a big driver,” said Brad Wilson, CPP and president. “The healthcare market is concerned over costs and budgeting and technology can help them better control those costs moving forward. (Wilson is also a past president of Security-Net and currently sits on the organization’s product technology review committee.)

RFI Communications & Security Systems gives lots of TLC to healthcare customers…staying active with IAHSS and working on full systems solutions, training and security and safety audits. “They have to do audits of the business, to know how technology can help them control their costs,” Wilson said. “It goes beyond traditional security. For example, how do you protect data in the computers that the healthcare users are wheeling around?” he asked.

The dynamics of the healthcare customer are extensive, there are regulations and compliance with the Joint Commission, fire and life safety considerations, safety, areas where cash is exchanged, drug dispensaries, risk meditation, active shooter scenarios, disaster planning, and the list goes on and on. For a systems integrator who doesn’t have the full picture of how to nurture this customer, “you can lose money very quickly,” Wilson said.

RFI Communications & Security Systems has multiple personnel engaged with healthcare customers to fully cover this dynamic and help them become proactive, rather than reactive, in their approach to safety and security. One of the company’s current subscribers is Kaiser Permanente, where they have worked up a master plan for this healthcare provider—and IP connectivity and integrated systems are front and center to that plan as well as many others in this vertical market.

 

Integration within

“Hospitals and their security is becoming more integrated into the overall operations,” Wilson continued. “Global security operations will become more commonplace as security grows, and facilities will tie them together with WANs,” he said. “We do a lot of fire and life safety for healthcare customers and mass notification has really become big for them, as well for other verticals.” They are also starting to embrace wireless locks and video analytics. The integrator will benefit if they can align themselves clearly with the challenges healthcare providers have,” he said.

For Vision Security Technologies, based in Birmingham, Ala., an extra dose of TLC and expertise goes a long way in keeping its healthcare customers—who comprise some 25 to 35 percent of the company’s business, according to Barry Komisar, chief executive officer and founder. (Vision Security Technologies is also a Security-Net member.) Komisar said the sales cycle for healthcare is a long process, but they continue to cultivate their existing customers and also excel at takeovers, garnering systems contracts from healthcare customers who were unhappy with their previous installing contractor.

“Healthcare customers continue to move from analog to IP systems and also focus on integration with access control systems,” he said. “We also do infant abduction systems and are looking at RFID tracking of equipment and capital investments. What we are seeing is the emergence of emergency call phones—those same phones are going IP and now hospitals can push mass notification through that single connection, or push out weather alerts from the central command center,” Komisar said.

Vision Security migrated from a low-voltage systems contractor to an IT-centric solutions firm and that has helped position the company with the ability to handle even the most complex IP installations. In addition, the company excels at sole-source contracts. “We truly partner with the end users and this helps remove us from the bid-spec world. We value engineer solutions and we are all about long-term relationships. We only hire IT centric people and we have a state of the art training center, called Vision University, for our personnel and for our customers and prospects for training. We bring in the healthcare end user and provide continuing education for them. As an IT-centric company, you have to do that,” Komisar said.

With a keen eye on the market, Vision Security has hired personnel with direct healthcare experience, one who was the director of security at a major healthcare provider. “We are experts in the healthcare market and we have the experience the end user is looking for.”

Komisar concurred with RFI’s Wilson that mass notification is a big trend, along with shooter training.

Service and maintenance contracts also keep hospital customers sticky. Vision Security calls its security and maintenance plan VIP or Vision Investment Protection. “The single, most important business driver for us is service and maintenance agreements. We need to ‘touch’ the customer on a regular basis. When they have this as a monthly cost it’s an operating expense they can budget for. We don’t put a proposal out without a service and maintenance agreement,” he said.

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