Hospital Security: The Past, The Present, and The Future, Part 2 of 2

Healthcare security consultant Jeff Aldridge examines the need of risk assessments and the hospital security management plan


Crime has penetrated into the healthcare setting at an alarming rate. Assaults on medical personnel are becoming increasingly frequent and severe. Emergency Departments across the country are becoming the scene of violent attacks by patients, relatives or their friends, often involving knives and guns. Hostage taking situations are on the rise. And now after the September 11th attack on America, hospitals are beefing up security to prepare for mass causalities in the event of a bioterrorism attack. With these increasing trends healthcare providers are facing serious liability and the charge is usually, with out exception, inadequate security.

Patients are being found in possession of knives and guns on a daily basis in the patient treatment areas of our Emergency Departments. Weapons need to be detected before they enter the patient treatment area of our Emergency Departments. Metal detection and scanning are the only methods for detecting unauthorized weapons brought illegally into the Emergency Department. Hospitals should seriously consider installing a metal detector at the entrance to the Emergency Department to screen all persons that attempt to enter with unauthorized weapons.

Infant Electronic Protection

Concerns about wandering patients and infant abductions have been a common fear among hospital administrators for some time. These concerns have brought renewed interest in electronic tracking of patients and infants. Litigation continues to be brought against hospitals and birthing centers with charges of inadequate protection against infant abductions. As a result, this phenomenon has sparked a myriad of manufacturers and vendors to develop a variety of systems designed to foil abduction attempts and locate wandering patients.

With the continuing increase in litigation and the wrath of the Joint Commission, it becomes increasingly essential for hospitals to offer state-of-the-art security protection for their mother/baby and pediatric units. The proliferation of new security products makes it increasingly difficult for administration, nursing, and security management to select a system that provides the ultimate protection and ease of use at a reasonable cost.

When deciding on an infant security system it is best to form a committee from various disciplines and departments within the hospital. The following link lists some of the evaluation criteria recommended for committee use: http://www.saione.com/eps.htm.

IT Security

Whether a hospital implements even a small component of technology to manage EPHI or is a full-scale, automated facility, the 42 HIPAA safeguards must be addressed. IT security means a secure network, secure data transmission and the protection of patient confidential information. This aspect of IT security is now of paramount importance to hospitals and healthcare affiliations because of HIPAA mandates. By assessing the current network environment, deploying technologies that address the exposures uncovered by the assessment, developing appropriate IT security policies and procedures, and validating and maintaining the security solution through real-time monitoring and periodic audits, ensures that the facility has it’s IT environment secure.

Proactive management and resource allocation is the only way to keep up with the never-ending changes in laws, regulations, and threats. This is accomplished by maintaining adequate staffing, access control, personnel orientation, continuing education, and the identification of patients, visitors, and staff, all of which is mandated by industry standards.

Prospective patients and families are increasingly evaluating hospitals not only for the quality of care a hospital provides, but now, more than ever, hospitals are being evaluated on the level of security available during the patients stay. With this in mind, it becomes increasingly essential for healthcare providers to offer state-of-the-art security protection for their patients, staff, and visitors.