Healthcare Security Trends for 2014 Run the Gamut

New federal regulations and emerging technologies shape the future of healthcare security

The healthcare industry is no stranger to the growing security risks that exist in the world today. High-profile incidents such as the December, 2013 Renown Regional Medical Center shooting in Reno, NV, are a constant reminder that hospitals are facing increased threats. Exposure to such threats—coupled with compliance and budgetary restraints—will put significant pressure on the healthcare security industry in 2014. On top of being the front line in protecting the lives of patients and employees, security will also affect many other facets of healthcare organizations, such as business continuity, human resources and finance. This article will briefly explore how industry trends, new legislation and emerging technologies are shaping healthcare security in 2014.


Industry trends

Affordable Care Act: With the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a pervasive feeling of uncertainty regarding the short term effects on the industry. Hospitals will guard their budgets cautiously, and security—traditionally viewed as a cost center—will feel the pinch. Security directors will be expected to do more with less and will be required to present business cases, citing in-depth, needs-based analysis to obtain funding. Certain hospitals might even see personnel reductions, which will further strain their security departments and lead to guard outsourcing.

Tighter budgets have long been an anticipated side effect of the ACA. The industry as a whole has been used to dealing with decreased funding since the 2008 recession. According to Ray Osborne, CHPA, director of security services at UC San Diego Medical Center, “As with most industries over the past several years, the sluggish economy created budgetary shortfalls in overall healthcare security. While our industry has adapted well to these existing fiscal challenges, the [ACA] is expected to impact healthcare security even further.”

Experts expect a rise in patient volume as more people seek treatment once they become insured. There is potential for health systems to become overwhelmed as a result of the overstretched staff, reduced supplies and increased costs. Hospitals might have to review their visitor management and access control systems, as well as update their training and policies to compensate for the increase of patients and longer wait times.

“In order to be more adequately prepared, healthcare security leaders have challenged themselves with identifying and preparing more efficient ways to accomplish our goals should significant changes occur, all while not compromising the integrity of our programs,” said Osborne.

Security professionals might also be brought into projects not traditionally under their realm. A provision of the ACA states that insurance reimbursements are tied, in part, to a hospital’s patient satisfaction data. Communications and life safety technologies are vital to improving a patient’s overall experience. Technologies such as nurse call systems and real-time patient locating will be in the spotlight. Furthermore, life safety systems will need to be integrated into the overall hospital system. Other departments will lean on the security department to help them implement changes and improve their patient satisfaction data.

Active Shooter: On top of budgetary and regulation issues, healthcare security professionals contend with the day-to-day threats that face their facilities, with a major concern continuing to be an active shooter scenario. According to research by Brad Heath and Meghan Hoyer of USA Today, mass shootings occur once every two weeks in the U.S. While the chances are slim, it is imperative that hospitals have sufficient security technology, disaster plans and training to handle such a situation. Partnering with local law enforcement, as well as running mock events, is absolutely necessary and the best way to identify security weaknesses. Issues hospitals often discover when running these events there is a lack of complete video surveillance coverage or insufficient manpower. This lack of manpower is especially noticeable when running two or more events simultaneously, commonly referred to as a Dual Event scenario.

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