Building a Better Hospital Security System, 1 Phase at a Time

Here’s how Rush University Medical Center embarked on an overhaul of its security systems to deploy a future-proofed integrated access control and video system.

While Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center is considered tops in the field of medicine, like many other hospitals, its security personnel still face everyday challenges. The hospital’s downtown campus spans four city blocks and encompasses 20 buildings. At the same time, the security department recognizes that its work plays a pivotal role relating to the hospital’s reputation as a leading and safe medical facility. All of this must be accomplished while maintaining an open environment for patients and visitors.

Recognizing the important function security plays in the hospital environment, Lauris Freidenfelds, director of security services and emergency management for the medical center, began implementing several significant changes to the hospital’s security system when he came onboard three years ago. On his agenda was replacing the hospital’s obsolete access control system, as replacement parts for the system were becoming scarce and the manufacturer was beginning to phase out support. The hospital needed to invest in a new access control system that would stand the test of time.

New Solution Expands as Hospital Grows
Rush University Medical Center turned to Software House C•CURE solutions as the foundation for its enterprise access control system. But Freidenfelds had some tough questions for the manufacturer.

“I remember, even then, being adamant on having clear migration strategies and smooth transitions to new technology,” he recalls. “Software House and its C•CURE 800/8000 solution had great reputations, but I wanted assurance from them that what I bought that day wouldn’t be a wasted investment.”

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Convinced by the solid technology roadmap, Rush University Medical Center replaced its old, antiquated access control system with the C•CURE 800/8000 system five years ago. The scalable system enabled the hospital to “grow from the inside out,” according to Freidenfelds, by allowing the security department to initially focus on specific departments and areas of the hospital that required access control, such as the pharmacy, labor and delivery and the IT department, before taking the next step to incorporate other areas of the facility.

“We’re now planning a comprehensive campus-wide deployment of the latest Software House solution, C•CURE 9000, for campus doors and general public areas,” said Freidenfelds. “We started this 2 ½ years ago after completing a security risk assessment and identified that we need to ensure a secure perimeter-of-the-building concept.”

Facility Replaces Keys With Access Cards
With the new system as the foundation for its access control needs, the hospital could begin to incorporate other areas of the hospital into its overall, comprehensive security plan. That includes storage areas, food service areas and adding employee access points at several entrances along the perimeter of the building. Previously, at night, employees had a single access point into the building that could require an employee to walk several city blocks late at night from the bus stop.

Part of Rush University Medical Center’s overall security plan involved replacing keys once used to access linen closets and employee lockers with a card reader-based access control system. The benefit, according to Freidenfelds, is the hospital can easily manage, monitor and restrict access to specific areas instead of relying on a physical key to get the job done.

The security director’s goal was to condition employees to use their access control credentials on a daily and regular basis. The challenge of a hospital’s open environment, he said, is balancing public access with restricted space, such as patient care areas, sensitive areas and the back of the house.
“Right now we have about 4,000 to 5,000 people using badging solutions every day,” he says. “The philosophy is if you have to use your badge to get to where you work, you will have it with you more often.”

Access Control Integrates With Video Surveillance
Another element of Rush University Medical Center’s security overhaul involved tying together its video system with C•CURE and its intrusion detection system, enabling security officers to be able to first evaluate an incident using video and then physically responding if necessary. Using American Dynamics video solutions to manage their surveillance and integrating that with C•CURE 9000 from Software House, the hospital security guards can immediately and remotely review a door going into alarm mode because the associated video will come up on a monitor at the hospital’s command center.

“Instead of doing a patrol, we can now proactively send a security officer over there to resolve a situation,” says Freidenfelds. “Our security becomes more task-oriented and focused vs. just patrolling.”

Chicago-based systems integrator Advent Systems Inc. worked closely with the hospital to help it integrate the first and second phase of integration of the new access control platform with its video management system.

“It was a logical move to integrate access control with video,” says John Skwirblies, senior account executive for Advent Systems. “Now the hospital can have a camera associated with a card reader on the C•CURE 9000 monitoring screen, and they don’t have to close it out and go to another monitor to view what is happening on the video side.”

Video Tours Keep Hospital Code Compliant
In addition, Rush University Medical Center security guards can use the American Dynamics recorders for virtual tours of hallways to make sure they are clear of materials and trash instead of sending a security guard to physically walk the hall. This helps the medical center maintain compliance with fire codes.

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