How to Manage Healthcare Facility Visitors

Today's electronic solutions do an effective job of screening and tracking hospital guests and vendors. Each campus can determine the quantity and type of information they obtain on a visitor before the guest is allowed access.
Published: August 10, 2011


Healthcare organizations are today adapting to changing conditions and what it means to have an open facility. Like institutions in many different fields, healthcare facilities are increasingly using electronic visitor management systems to control and monitor guest access.

Beyond the obvious need to curtail theft or violence from unwanted individuals (and the potential exposure to litigation because of it), there are many  reasons for using visitor systems. One is that they are a more professional way to manage guests, and that reflects positively on the organization.

Related Article: K-12 Access Control’s Weak Link — Visitor Verification

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Some of the most prestigious and largest healthcare campuses in the country are using visitor management software to screen, badge and track every visitor and vendor entering their buildings. Consequently, they are able to identify each and every guest from a driver’s license scan, capture that information securely while keeping it confidential from other visitors, and provide a unique badge that looks professional. A lobby attendant can capture the necessary information from a guest and provide a badge in less than 20 seconds per visitor.

Paper Guest Logs Have Legibility, Confidentiality Issues
There’s no question that managing visitors in a healthcare facility can be challenging. Hospitals often have large numbers of visitors entering or leaving the main lobby, extended lobby hours, some patients that can receive visitors at any time of the day or night, and guests who are not familiar with the facility — all of which present obstacles.

This may account for some facilities that still let visitors and vendors enter freely without any check in. Or worse, sign a paper guest log. Even though a paper guest book may sound like a good idea to keep track of who is entering the building, it has many problems, such as:

  • More often than not, the names are not legible or are false.
  • Information regarding who has visited the facility is readily available for everyone to see, but this information should be confidential.
  • In an emergency such as an evacuation, it would be impossible to quickly determine who is still in the building.
  • It presents a poor image to everyone. They may perceive security at the facility as being lax.

Almost every organization today, healthcare included, wants to monitor who is in their building and the reasons why.

A visitor management system lets healthcare organizations decide the amount of information they want to capture about the visitor. Most organizations using a visitor management system will scan the driver’s license of the guest to capture the basic name and address, as well as the photo from the license. Basically any type of information that is captured can be included on a visitor’s badge, including his or her photo.

Badging Options Allow For Customization
A visitor management system can be set-up to print different styles of badges for various categories of guests so that it is easy to distinguish the different types of persons. More permanent badges can be provided to guests who are expected to be visiting patients frequently or over an extended period of time. A barcode can be included on these badges so that when the guest returns, the lobby attendant only needs to scan the visitor badge and that guest is checked in, along with the visitor information from the first check-in. A scan of the badge will also automatically check out the visitor. In fact, all guest badges can include a barcode to expedite rapid check out with a simple scan.

One of the more useful aspects of a visitor registration system for healthcare facilities is its ability to integrate with a number of hospital systems to enhance the guest sign in process. Some of the more significant integrations with hospital systems are:

  • HL7 for real-time patient feeds: This allows the lobby attendant to see real-time patient admissions and discharges directly on their visitor management screen. They can match the visitor with the patient without needing to look at another system or a paper printout for patient information.
  • Status Blue for approved vendors: The lobby attendant will be able to access this information from the visitor system to know whether an arriving vendor has been pre-approved by the facility. If not, there may be other steps or procedures that may be required.
  • Access control integration: Contractors or in some cases volunteer workers, or hospital staff who have forgotten their employee badge, can be provided with access to locked doors controlled by the facility’s access control system. This will allow them to enter areas without being escorted by an employee.

Another significant feature of a visitor management system is its ability to include a maximum number of visitors alert. This feature allows healthcare facilities to limit the number of guests to a particular patient. For example, a patient in intensive care may be restricted to fewer guests than other patients. And all patients may have some restrictions on the maximum number of guests at any one time. The lobby attendant will automatically be alerted when the maximum number of visitors have checked in for a particular patient.

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