How Technology Can Help Prevent Patient Elopements

Access control, visitor management, software, video surveillance and improved policies can reduce the likelihood of at-risk patients bolting and endangering themselves.

A visitor management system that is built around creating and managing identities is a first step, but to address the elopement issue, the software has to go further. Each patient’s data must be in the system as well so that any visitor requesting to see a particular patient will be investigated and evaluated according to a set of policies and procedures.

For example, one patient may have become agitated or attempted elopement in the past when a specific person was visiting. Or, the patient may simply have been identified as being at higher risk for this behavior. Visitors can be limited to narrowly defined areas of the facility to reduce the risk that they will open a door that should not be opened. This approach can be specifically tailored to different visitors based on their respective identity privileges and requirements. A robust PIAM system can make this possible.

In terms of creating a technology solution for hospitals, a third component is video surveillance to document activity and identify individuals in case of an incident. By working to provide the most secure possible environment, this higher level of security oversight is going to be welcomed by patients and their families as it delivers even greater peace of mind.

Security Technology Fosters Peace of Mind

One possible barrier to healthcare’s acceptance of these types of controls is the historical perception that a facility dedicated to healing needs to present an open, welcoming face to patients and their visitors. While this is certainly true, in the current climate, most people will understand that creating peace of mind around physical security can only add to the comfort level for their loved ones. For parents and families of patients most at risk for elopement, this is a benefit that provides a true advantage to the facility offering it. In fact, it is already policy in some children’s and women’s hospitals to put access control on every floor. Adoption of such policy is only going to grow with time.

It should be noted that K-12 schools are beginning to make this shift as well, with increased funding going towards implementation of security systems including technology that enables lockdowns in case of an occurrence and provides video evidence of incidents. For example, with the approval of a $4.5M local bond, the Dallas Independent School District has been able to deploy camera solutions, access control systems, visitor management systems and modifications to their 1,500 buildings.

The dangers of elopement are particularly clear with respect to the media coverage of elopement incidents. In addition to the sad story of Avonte Oquendo, a woman named Lynne Spalding eloped from her room at San Francisco General Hospital in January and was found dead 17 days later in a locked stairwell at the facility. She had been identified as an elopement risk, and her nur
ses were given an order to keep her under 24-hour supervision, but the information had not yet been entered into the proper form. An automated PIAM system would have contained that information from the moment she was checked into the institution, and she would not have had the credentials to leave her ward.

Her story has been thoroughly covered by the media, with each update further damaging San Francisco General Hospital’s reputation – and adding to their liability and potential fines from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Further, both for the members of the hospitals’ Boards of Directors and major donors, it is important to feel confident that the organization has done all it can to prevent incidents like elopements.

A Secure Environment Promotes Healing

No technology can fully allay the anxiety of patients and families of patients who are facing health issues serious enough to require a stay in the hospital. However, using a combination of today’s advanced security technologies, it is possible to create an environment where healing can more peacefully take place.

Ajay Jain is president and CEO of Quantum Secure.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ