Hospitals Getting Smarter on Credential Strategies and Access

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

To turn NFC-enabled smart phones into an access control credential, allowing people to use their smart phones to enter buildings in the same way they present a badge ID, users simply download the app to their smart phone. Then, their access control administrator uses the cloud service to send a secure mobile credential directly to the user’s phone. Once the mobile credential is downloaded, users open the app and tap their smart phone to the reader in the same way they use an ID card. Those not able to make an upgrade today to a smart credential solution may want to consider incorporating multi-technology readers.


Increasing Security by Updating Lockdown Capabilities

Violence in healthcare environments is on the rise. Whether it’s an active shooter situation, a domestic incident spilling over into the emergency department, or patient/family violence against staff members, lockdown procedures can help contain and control the situation and keep other patients and staff from being put in harm’s way.

Some recent advances in facility security have been shown to go a long way in helping to maintain perimeter access and control intra-facility movement during an emergency. First of all, an access control system with strategically placed readers and electronic locking solutions has become an increasingly popular way to enable the instantaneous lockdown of a facility in the case of an emergency.

Secondly, what makes an access control system so helpful in emergency situations is the ease by which administrators can deny access to the perimeter or any intra-facility area, thereby giving the administrator autonomy in regards to traffic flow during an emergency situation. When implemented correctly, the access control software provides a simple way to centrally manage user authorization and door status within a facility.


Using Technology to Increase Control

A hospital, by nature, needs to balance an open and inviting atmosphere with a sophisticated level of security. Ensuring the safety of patients and staff and protecting of patient records rank high on every organization’s list of priorities. Using the right technology can make this balance easier to maintain. Increasing the number of electronic access controlled openings cannot only help in day-to-day operations, but also aide in the event of an emergency.

During new construction or major remodeling, hospitals can plan for and implement hardwired electronic locks and readers that are connected to the network for easy centralized management. When managed from a central location, resulting lockdowns are fast and effective.

As an alternative to hardwired locks, a wireless electronic locking system, extremely popular in hospitals during retrofits, provides flexibility and simplicity of installation with the same enhanced security and lockdown capabilities of a hardwired system. Wireless access control system installation is fast and easy with minimal disruption to patient care areas and can easily be integrated with other electronic hardware for an integrated life safety and security solution.

One lockdown issue with some wireless technologies, such as WiFi, has been the potential for communications delay from the head-end system. With many wireless solutions, access control decisions are downloaded by the host into the lock only 5-6 times per day. Access control decisions are managed within the locks (as is the case with traditional offline locks) to minimize communication from the lock to the host and conserve batteries.However, such limited (not real-time) connectivity with the host limits the locks’ ability to receive urgent commands from the host.

There can also be issues with legacy 900 MHz wireless technology platforms. Oftentimes, a command to immediately lock down could be ignored by the lock for up to 10 minutes or more. However, with newer modular wireless locks using 900MHz, a patent-pending “wake up on radio” feature works in parallel with the 10-minute heartbeat.Without waking up the entire lock or reducing battery life, it listens for complementary commands every one to 10 seconds and then responds.


Control Access Smartly

As part of the overall security and emergency planning, using advanced design strategies, innovative hardware and careful management of personal access, healthcare facilities can better control the access its inhabitants have in and around the building as well as protect its assets.

By emphasizing planning, practice, education and the latest in security hardware, lockdown times can be drastically cut, even in large hospitals. A reduction in lockdown time signifies an improvement in emergency preparedness. It also assures that perimeter access and intra-facility access has been optimized for both performance and security.