Hospitals Getting Smarter on Credential Strategies and Access

Smart cards and smart lockdowns are healthy cures for hospital security and safety

Whether it is meeting HIPPA guidelines or assuring patients and staff is protected, hospital facility managers and security professionals are being forced to re-examine their access control procedures and systems. In many cases, their present credentials are inadequate and lockdown procedures are faulty. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with a little knowledge and planning it’s possible to bring safety and security to the proper level. A weaving in of the latest in security solutions and procedures can increase security and safety for patients and staff.


Too many credentials; too little commonality

It’s not uncommon. A hospital employee might carry a magnetic stripe ID card with two barcodes on her lanyard. In addition, she must remember two different PINs for certain doors, carry several brass keys for others and have a proximity fob in her pocket for the institution’s new wing -- all this just to interact with the variety of secured areas and systems in a normal work day.

However, it would be much more efficient, economical and secure to have the employee simply carry a smart card that works with a variety of applications. It can provide her access to the areas of the hospital for which she is authorized, as well as access to many other hospital applications, making her job easier, adding to her productivity and helping the hospital become more secure using just that single card.

Of course, not only is the credential landscape complicated. When reviewing the typical hospital access control system in use today, in all too many cases, it was installed in stages or has come together as a result of consolidation of hospitals into a single health system. As a result, it is comprised of different brands and disparate products, many of which do not integrate into the same system or talk with each other. Many of today’s hospital security systems require several separate databases and a plethora of software interfaces that can create confusion, lower the level of security within the facility and decrease staff productivity.

In other words, healthcare organizations too frequently depend on independently operated ’silos’ of systems and processes that don’t allow for data to be exchanged among them. This approach can result in duplicated efforts, delayed response times and complicated compliance issues. This is not only true for security-related systems but also for systems running the broader physical environment and, inevitably, systems across the enterprise.

Not only are such scenarios cumbersome for the employees, they drive the physical access control management staff crazy. And as IT departments become more prevalent in access control hardware and software purchases and system management, smart card technology can help facilitate consolidation and standardization activities.


Increase Security and Solve the Credential Problem

Any type of card can be used – magnetic strip, proximity or proprietary smart card. However, hospitals are learning that they get their best return-on-investment (ROI) with open architecture contactless smart credentials. A smart credential’s microchip can store, protect and modify information, and provide many opportunities for information sharing and exchange. Smart cards offer a number of ways to verify an individual, including static and dynamic passwords, digital certificates and private keys, biometrics and photos.

Smart cards may provide hospitals with a superior solution over other card products, increasing the security of data and providing added convenience to the user. And, by also adding open architecture capability to the mix, hospitals can provide secure access for staff to more applications and add value to the many proprietary systems currently in the marketplace without having to go through software and interface tweaks so prevalent with proprietary credentials, including smart cards.

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