Protecting healthcare facilities against the myriad of risks they face can be a daunting challenge even for well-seasoned security professionals. It is an inherently challenging environment given that, in many cases, emotions are already running high among patients and their family members. Recent research also indicates that incidents of crime have risen at healthcare facilities over the past several years. According to the 2012 Crime and Security Trends Survey underwritten by the Foundation of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the number of crimes at U.S. healthcare facilities increased by nearly 37 percent in just two years from just under 15,000 in 2010 to more than 20,500 in 2012.
Looking to help healthcare organizations bolster their security measures and also improve efficiencies in other areas, Schneider Electric last month launched a new initiative dubbed the "HealthBuildings Risk Assessment Program." This program provides hospitals with a team of professional engineers and experts who examine a healthcare facility’s complete infrastructure including mechanical, building management systems, electrical data center power and cooling systems, and security technology.
"For years, we have watched our healthcare customers try to understand all the risks that might occur with the various utility systems for which they are responsible," says Andrew Tanskey, service sales manager at Schneider Electric. Tanskey serves as one of the consultants for the program. "The infrastructure within a hospital is only less complex than a nuclear facility. So, we know, based on years of experience in working with them, that it is really tough to anticipate everything without help. We are also aware that security technology has been moving from traditional responsibility of security to other departments like facility or operational management or IT management. Those changes can mean that there is less expertise in understanding and evaluating what risks might be out there as technologies and needs change so quickly in the industry."
According to Tanskey, the different risks faced by healthcare facilities can vary greatly depending on their geographic location. For example, he says the challenges faced by a hospital in an urban environment are different those located in a rural setting.
"The common link between all these challenges is technology, and most predominantly the effective utilization of these technologies," Tanskey explains. "For example, an infant abduction system is a staple security system; however, we have to understand if it is deployed as effectively as it could be. Are there technological capabilities for integration to access control, video, and other physical security systems where the installation becomes more effective, and possibly a differentiator in infant care for the facility? This process can be translated to any common or specialized area of many healthcare facilities."
Tanskey says that one of the goals of the assessment program will also be to help facilities recognize areas where they are the most vulnerable, which can also vary.
"One facility’s ER might have increased susceptibility to violence from known gang crime, where another facility’s pharmacy is susceptible due to local narcotic usage," says Tanskey. "The technology exists to properly secure many areas of the facility; however, effective deployment with the knowledge of your operating environment is crucial to the successful utilization of security. The assessment is designed to gain a clear and concise understanding of the local environment and present a best practice roadmap to effectively utilize and deploy a technological security infrastructure."
And while some healthcare facilities may lack the proper technology solutions to meet their security needs, Tanskey said one of the most common things he’s seen lacking in a number of hospitals is a "forward-thinking, proactive approach" to security.