Healthcare Security Trends for 2014 Run the Gamut

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

Drug Diversion: Drug diversion will also be at the forefront of issues facing the industry in 2014. Hospitals and pharmacies are becoming targets for those seeking narcotics. Moreover, a hospital employee, not an outsider, often commits the diversion. Controlled substances are not the only medications people are after; regular prescription drugs are targets, especially the more expensive ones. Large-scale thefts will usually result in a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation and negative press. Security executives must make sure there is proper access control on all drug storage areas and video surveillance of all human/drug interactions facilitywide. It is also crucial to have appropriate drug handling policies and procedures in place. There needs to be a system of checks and balances in place for employees handling medications. One person should not be in charge of the whole cycle from loading the medication distributor to administering them to the patient.


Emerging technologies and trends

Consolidation: The nature of hospital security systems and installation projects is changing because the industry is going through a period of rapid consolidation. Large conglomerates are purchasing smaller hospitals, creating extensive multicampus healthcare networks. These networks will seek enterprise-level systems and service packages that are standardized across all facilities. As can be expected, such installations will be more expensive and complex than the current industry average. Even though 2014 budgets will be tight, these conglomerates will strive to implement their business plans. Project money will be there for manufacturers and integrators, but there will be more pressure to deliver cost-effective solutions. Furthermore, the large-scale installations will work to the advantage of bigger security integrators and manufacturers with more manpower and complex project experience.

Emergency Notification: Hospitals are chaotic by nature, and it is difficult to determine active threats and alert employees quickly and effectively. As a solution, the experts are recommending emergency notification systems. Jim Stankevich, CHPA-L, global healthcare security manager at Tyco Security Products, believes “that every facility should have a duress/emergency notification system to protect staff, visitors and patients.” There is special interest in campuswide systems that can turn any device (computer, phone, tablet, pager and so forth) into an instant panic button and use those same devices to alert employees of incidents. These systems greatly reduce the time it takes to identify a threat along with the time it takes staff to react. This is true for both isolated and facilitywide incidents. Emergency notification allows the individual employee to alert the appropriate people the first time. A nurse could notify security of a violent patient in a specific wing, while a janitor could notify the whole facility of an active shooter. This flexibility allows each event to be handled accordingly and in a timely fashion.

Emergency notification technology can also streamline hospital systems through unification and automation. These systems can be integrated into all existing alarms, creating a single alarm lockdown or tiered levels of responses. They also reduce the impact of the “human element” since the system can automatically notify the right people of an event, such as a breach, fire or temperature drop. In these cases, there is no lag time from when an event takes place to when the alarm is triggered.

“When possible, taking the human element out of radio and other forms of notification speeds up the response time, reduces the risk of wrong location data and enables dispatch to get on with the other issues they need to address during an emergency,” said Tim Lee, vice president of sales at Lynx Duress and Emergency Notification Systems. The versatility of emergency notification has appeal beyond security because it can significantly increase employee efficiency. The system can be used to alert staff of an office closure, call specific nurses or doctors, help raise an alarm on a missing patient and turn the lights on in a dark area of a parking lot.

Biometrics: Interest in biometrics is rising, and many facilities will utilize these systems over the next year. The biometrics industry has been on the cusp of rapid growth and widespread adoption for quite some time. Less expensive and more easily deployable technologies have made biometrics attractive to security professionals, especially fingerprinting, facial recognition, retina scans and hand measurements. They also add an additional tier of security and have certain advantages over traditional access control systems. Primarily, they are harder to circumvent since biometric signatures cannot be easily forged. They also eliminate the need to badge or remember passwords, preventing cards falling into the wrong hands when lost or stolen and the sharing or forgetting of passwords. Added bonuses with biometrics include a reduction of administrative costs associated with password and card management, and an unequivocal link of a person to an event, time or location.