Healthcare Security: HIPAA, OSHA and Beyond

Diverse and complex are two words that often come to mind when security installers describe what it is like to provide security in a healthcare setting. Few environments present the myriad challenges that come from working in a hospital environment.

The list of what to do and not to do in a hospital environment when installing a security system can easily be called lengthy and complicated. As a facility that operates without any downtime, security installation professionals do not have the luxury to work in an area that can be closed down while installing new IP cameras, for example, or pulling wire for a new door keypad.

Security installers also need to maintain customer privacy, per HIPAA privacy regulations. They need to follow OSHA compliance, such as ladder safety — which means in some cases a second person has to hold it.

Security dealers and integrators must also maintain a clean environment, often working in the confines of a containment tent with HEPA filters and vacuum to comply with ICRA Infection Control Risk Assessment requirements protecting patients from airborne contaminants.

Undoubtedly, security pros have a daunting task at hand when it comes to understanding the complex nature of healthcare security. With that in mind, there are many up and coming technologies that security dealers and integrators who plan to provide installation and service support for this market should know, in addition, they should keep in mind different tricks of the trade when it comes to working in this setting.

 

Technologies to Know

The healthcare industry has seen a significant increase in the use of wireless locksets in the past few years. Often it is the age of hospital buildings and the amount of cable currently running throughout the ceilings of these buildings that necessitates taking this approach, as opposed to installing a wired lockset.

A wireless solution can be easy to configure and eliminates the need to drill into the door and through walls. For systems integrators, the benefit here is eliminating the need to pull cables through an already congested ceiling. It could also potentially replace the need for the systems integrator to erect a containment tent during a large portion of the installation phase to reduce the dust and other foreign matter that may make its way into the air, thereby contaminating a sterile environment.

While wireless electronic locks might not be ideal to use in all locations in a hospital due to the higher cost associated with these devices, this type of approach can prove useful in select areas. For example, this can include the, administration, laboratories and research areas or other low risk doors.

Also at the forefront of hospital security is the increased use of mass notification systems. The scope of a mass notification system has expanded beyond the original concept of simply providing notification of a security event — such as an active shooter. Today, many mass notification systems can provide employees with directions as what to do next if an active shooter enters the Emergency Room, for example. It can also send alerts to a pre-defined group of hospital employees who need to be notified about severe weather issues, such as a pending snowstorm that might make travel to work difficult.

These notifications can come to employees by mobile phone, pagers and email. In addition, pop-up windows can appear on a personal computer throughout a facility to alert staff of issues in a certain section of a facility instead of sending out notifications through an intercom system. It is important for security integrators to make themselves familiar with the different mass notification systems available on the market, including their capabilities, to ensure being able to provide hospital customers will a full-suite of solutions.

 

Embracing Integrated Solutions

As the security systems inside hospitals become more complex, hospitals are increasingly looking for a way to manage all of the data. Not only do hospitals need to manage hundreds, if not thousands of surveillance cameras and access control points, but they also need to keep track of panic alarms, medical alerts from infant abduction systems, and mass notification systems, among others.

Today, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the type of systems being installed, and as to how they are being used. While it may have worked five or 10 years ago for these systems to operate independently, that is no longer the case, as more security directors must take an integrated approach with the security technology and management of these systems.

So now, when the access control system sends an alert that a door has been left open, a security operator in the hospital facility can use surveillance to check on that alarm and why it sounded. Was it because someone propped open the door with an object or is there something else going on?

For the security integrator, this means it is paramount to understand how to integrate systems and which approach is right for a customer. Should the hospital install a video management system, or an enterprise level access control system, or a unified client? These are all questions that should be answered up-front with the hospital or healthcare executives.

 

Benefits of a Long-Term Relationship

In the healthcare field, developing a long-term relationship between the integrator and the healthcare security director can prove rewarding. Healthcare security directors like to work with contractors who are familiar with their facility — that goes beyond knowledge of the layout of the facility, but familiarity with the hospital’s policies and procedures.

Regarding layouts, many large hospitals have tunnels and employee access-only areas. Being familiar with these areas can help support taking a discrete approach and not being disruptive to the daily operations of the hospital, such as when hauling equipment. Sending the same technicians to work at a healthcare client’s facility can also help reduce the amount of time the hospital security staff needs to spend escorting technicians.

Understanding a hospital’s policies can make the difference between providing an accurate quote for a job and underbidding the job, thereby costing the installation firm money. Some facilities may require a two-person technician team at all times when installing surveillance cameras, but if this is not factored into the initial cost of a project, it could turn into an expensive mistake for the systems integrator.

Certainly providing security solutions in the healthcare market has its challenges, in terms of understanding regulations and new technologies, but it also has its benefits. It is considered to be a somewhat recession-proof market and a growing industry, as the population in North America continues to age.

While hospitals may cut down on spending from one year to the next, hospitals do need to continue to maintain their current systems. And that’s where the systems integrator comes in.

 

John R. Krumme, CPP, is President of Cam-Dex Security Corp., and a member of Security-Net, a global provider of security integration services. He can be reached by email at jkrumme@cam-dex.com. To request more info about Cam-Dex, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10703022; to request more info about Security-Net, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10601499.

 

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