Think for a moment about a healthcare facility’s physical security risks. It’s a complicated task to protect the physical well-being of staff and patients, maintain secured wards, as well as prevent property theft or misuse.
Less visible risks exist within healthcare facilities that can impact staff, visitors and patients: infectious diseases and viruses that spread via the air, surfaces or other exposure. Security system technologies can be leveraged to support a healthcare facility’s health and safety procedures, as well as help mitigate or manage potential risks.
How to Make Security Systems Healthcare Facilities Safer and Healthier
Security systems typically may not be viewed as a go-to solution as part of a strategy to create a healthier building environment compared to cleaning procedures or air quality improvements. When using the right security systems and procedures, security professionals have the ability to support goals in achieving safer and healthier buildings:
● Prepare. Validate that the facility meets the latest industry standards as well as any organization- and/or region-specific safety policies.
● Monitor. Examine occupant safety and space usage in real-time.
● Reduce. Enforce social-distancing and mask-wearing measures.
● Respond. Create a way to rapidly react to alerts, changing conditions, and health and safety incidents.
● Reassure. Improve staff, visitor and patient confidence.
To achieve these goals, integrated security systems can be used to:
1. Deploy sophisticated thermal screening
Stationing staff at entrances to take temperatures with a handheld device is not the most efficient use of resources, and it places staff at a higher risk of exposure. Instead, thermal camera technology at entrances and key access points can pre-screen visitors and patients for elevated skin temperatures and identify someone who may need further screening. The cameras cannot diagnose or detect viral infection, but they can facilitate faster assessment for triage use and allow results to be more quickly evaluated, as well as lessen potential exposure to other facility occupants.
The thermal cameras can be linked to a security system customized with digital standard operating procedures (SOPs) that trigger workflows and alert security if the camera detects an elevated skin temperature. If the system flags a patient or visitor, security staff or digital signage can direct the individual to another area of the facility for screening and evaluation by healthcare professionals, or to another facility entirely for testing. If the system flags an employee, the employee can likewise be screened, tested or sent home.
2. Control access
For a variety of reasons and especially now during the current health climate, healthcare facilities may want anyone with an elevated skin temperature or someone who has self-reported certain symptoms to only be given access to specific zones within the facility (or sent home). If the system flags a staff member, it can trigger a digitized incident workflow that locks their access to pre-designated areas. If staff, visitors or patients must be denied entry to certain zones, security staff can receive an alert and use video surveillance to confirm the individual responds as directed or take immediate action if they do not.
In addition to main entrances, facilities can use security systems to control access to specific areas — for example, research and development wings, secured wards or zones designated for highly infectious patients — for employees (based on privileges) as well as patients/visitors. This can also help keep healthy patients from being inadvertently exposed to contagions.
3. Automate the control and management of people flow and building occupancy
Video analytics is a powerful tool. A bi-directional people-counting feature, supported with strategically placed cameras, can provide a highly accurate way to calculate the number of people entering or exiting a space, standing in a crowd or lining up in a queue. With accurate real-time occupancy numbers, security staff can manage how many people are inside a facility at any given time, based on a predetermined threshold for building size and regulatory compliance.
Reporting from analytics also can identify trends, track patterns, and show how staff, visitors and patients use and move about a space. And intuitive space allocation can help manage overcrowding in areas like lobbies or lounges.
4. Limit interactions with high-touch surfaces
Frictionless access — i.e., providing access without requiring physical touch — reduces cross-contamination and helps lessen potential exposure to contaminants.
Any access point can be equipped with field-connected readers and other intelligent controllers tied into security systems, so staff, visitors and patients don’t need to physically touch readers, doors or other surfaces.
5. Detect noncompliance with social distancing protocols
Maintaining a safe distance between individuals in a building is recommended by organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help reduce exposure to infection. Advanced video analytics with intelligent loitering detection allows security staff to monitor public spaces for social distancing adherence. The security system can trigger alerts if a person remains too long in one area, stands too close to another person, or if a large group gathers in an area too small to allow for proper social distancing, which allows staff to take appropriate action. Also, by using reporting capabilities of the system, you can identify the top hotspots or zones where violations occur which can, in turn, be used for taking appropriate action.
6. Monitor and detect mask compliance
Healthcare workers have long understood the importance of wearing masks while on the job. Now, the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and many organizations have published guidelines recommending the use of face coverings in public places (some states have even mandated it) for the general public.
The practice is still new for many people, even though it is particularly critical in locations where social distancing guidelines are difficult to follow — for example, in elevators and other enclosed spaces.
Security systems with advanced video analytics and deep-learning artificial intelligence make it possible to effectively identify mask compliance (or lack thereof), reducing the need for manual efforts to enforce compliance. Security staff should also work with medical facility executives to design SOPs and workflows to handle patients or visitors who refuse to wear a mask.
7. Assist with contact tracing
Security systems with capabilities like advanced video analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, historical access credential tracking, and incident management workflows can be used to trace contacts.
A video analytics engine pulls camera streams and access control metrics and where enabled uses facial recognition to identify the individual who needs to be traced and anyone with whom they interacted. The system then creates a report — a graphical tree — providing first and second levels of contact with the individual (that is, anyone who interacted directly with the individual, and the people they later interacted with). Security staff can provide these reports to medical personnel to continue the process (contacting each individual and asking them to self-isolate, reporting to authorities as required, etc.).
8. Gain additional situational awareness
Building safety and security include improving situational awareness to monitor and detect non-compliance as well as manage other security risks, like physical violence.
Integrated security systems give security staff real-time visibility of an entire facility through a digital dashboard, allowing them to take immediate action in case of an incident. Digitized workflows within the system are automatically activated in the event of a security incident, helping staff understand exactly what their role is and what has to happen next.
This is especially useful during prolonged or ongoing incidents; as shifts change and new team members arrive on the job, digitized workflows help them quickly understand what’s happening and what they need to do next.
Making a More Secure Healthcare Environment
With modern, integrated security systems, security professionals can take proactive steps to enhance building safety; gain access to critical real-time data about their facility; improve compliance with new and changing regulations; manage people flow and occupancy levels; efficiently screen skin temperatures; detect proper mask usage and social distancing; contract trace; and improve overall situational awareness.
Using existing technology in new ways can help create a safer and healthier building environment and allow security professionals to better manage all types of physical safety risks within their facility.
About the author: Sheeladitya Karmarkar is the Global Offering Leader, Enterprise Access for Honeywell Building Technologies.