Integrating New Facilities Into Your Security Program

Assessments, site visits and managing officer morale can help pave the way for the successful merging of disparate hospital security programs.

Although it’s been quite a few years now, both of us can still vividly recall being the new guys in our department, and having to stumble our way through the landmines of what to say and do and how our new supervisors wanted things done.

This, combined with learning the policies and procedures of the organization, and working to fit in with the other officers while providing ideas on ways to improve our department, was a challenge. In a word, it was brutal! So what happens when suddenly you have an entire department of new guys to integrate into your existing agency?

The need to integrate disparate security programs can occur for a number of reasons, including mergers or acquisitions of companies, the absorption of personnel from one department into another or going from a contract to proprietary security model (or vice versa).

Many of these newly integrated personnel already have their own ways of doing things that at best are different and at worst may conflict with your departmental policies and procedures. This fact — along with a change of leadership and new expectations of performance — can quickly lead to problems if an organization does not plan for certain transitional issues.

Reference Materials Put You on the Right Path
As our organization continued to expand and integrate other facilities and their security programs into our system, our department began to develop practices to manage such issues. The first of these was the creation of reference materials specific to the healthcare security industry that we could use to both assess newly aligned facilities as well as analyze our existing programs for opportunities for improvement. In creating this body of knowledge, we first considered what we would be assessing when we approached a new facility and what guidelines, regulations and best practices already existed.

We began by looking at issues that were directly tied to mandated, regulatory agencies, such as the Joint Commission, OSHA, NFPA and the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMMS). Such requirements are typically compulsory for a healthcare facility to operate and would be first and foremost when assessing an existing hospital security program.

We next looked to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) and its basic industry guidelines. These were created to assist those responsible for security in the healthcare setting in fulfilling their obligation to provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment while carrying out the mission of the healthcare organization. The IAHSS guidelines support compliance with all national, state/provincial, county and local requirements and support existing regulatory, accreditation, and other healthcare professional association requirements and procedures.

Numerous other guidelines and best practices were considered for inclusion in our reference materials, such as those from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Guidelines for the Prevention of Infant Abduction, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Guidelines for Security Lighting for People, Property and Public Spaces, and the 2009 Hospital Security Best Practices Summary from Arriba Corp. Once we were confident that a reasonable cross section of subjects was included, our booklet was assembled, and a self assessment tool based on its contents was created.

Assessments Evaluate Scope of Potential Problems
Our self assessment tool was an instrument that would allow a newly acquired facility and the person responsible for its security program to quickly ascertain the degree of exposure to potential security problems based on the Carolinas Healthcare System’s Security Guiding Principles and our supporting healthcare security regulations/best practices booklet. This self-test would provide valuable insight into the status of a facility’s security program and indicate to us where we should focus first.

The self test was not exhaustive in its scope, and its questions could not include every security condition that may arise, but they were meant to call attention to the wide range of security vulnerabilities that every hospital must consider. We devised the test to have three separate parts focusing on required (must haves), recommended (should haves) and optional (would be nice to have) issues.

The required section referred to matters directly tied to mandated, regulatory requirements (Joint Commission, OSHA, etc). The recommended section was based on best practices and standards that are specific to the healthcare security industry (IAHSS, NCMEC) since guidelines from these organizations are typically not compulsory for a healthcare facility, and failure to meet them typically does not result in penalties or other regulatory consequences.

The optional section was just that; issues mentioned in the optional section characteristically enhance a healthcare security program, but a successful program does not rely on any of these items extensively to provide a safe and secure environment.

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