3 Things to Consider Before Updating Hospital Security Infrastructures

Before you embark on any infrastructure upgrades, discuss your hospital’s incident history with a trusted advisor since demographics often change as the age and use of the facility change.
Published: June 9, 2019

Healthcare facilities are all too familiar with the challenges that come with ever-evolving technology and aging infrastructures. Hospital leaders are constantly addressing infrastructure maintenance to ensure the best possible care for their patients while reducing potential threats.

We spoke with Fawn Staerkel, director of strategic accounts for healthcare at Johnson Controls, about how hospitals are standardizing their operations and performance across one integrated database management system.

While all hospital infrastructures are important and deserve significant consideration, Staerkel says security is one of Johnson Controls’ leading initiatives right now.

“We have had an influx of hospitals asking us to help them to help make the hospital a safer place for both patients and staff. With a recent study indicating over 75% of hospitals are increasing security budgets, we are seeing a rapid increase in our customers developing security initiatives within their organizations,” she told Campus Safety. “The two most common areas of discussion, that tend to lay the foundation for the larger plan, are access control and video surveillance.”

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Staerkel’s revelation comes as no surprise since, in 2017, CS conducted a survey of our audience to find what security systems they planned on investing in the following year. The top responses were video surveillance and physical access control — 67% and 43%, respectively.

If these results stay on trend, much of Campus Safety magazine’s audience is in the process of or will soon be investing in either upgrading or implementing these security systems. Before doing so, Staerkel recommends taking the following steps to get a better idea about what security upgrades your facility really needs and the challenges that come with those upgrades.

Discuss Difficulties, Goals with a Trusted Advisor

Before moving forward with any security infrastructure upgrades or installments, Staerkel recommends sitting down with a security professional or experienced partner in what she refers to as a “navigation” or “innovation” session. In these sessions, hospitals must be extremely transparent about their plans for growth and development, down-sizing, or changes in service that are coming.

“Most hospitals have a ten-year plan for what they are doing and how they are going to develop both their services to the community and their growth objectives around that,” she says. “You need to have a good conversation on the hospital’s mission and goals to say, ‘What are you striving for? What are your big concerns?'”

During these sessions, it is also essential to go through your hospital’s incident history.

“[In these sessions], we would discuss what the history has been, incidents they have seen and concerns they have. You pull data from local law enforcement agencies and local municipalities,” she explains. “You need to understand the demographics and crime statistics in their geographic service area. Most jurisdictions will provide hospitals with trend data indicating what types of incidents they are projecting for growth, as well as concerns within their local geographic areas.”

It is necessary to discuss this history since hospital demographics often change as the age and use of the facility changes.

“As an example, we have several hospitals with big, huge maternity wards where the communities which they serve are now aging. The bed utilization rates in the maternity wards are declining. The hospitals are seeking to change the use of the facility as the demographic changes,” says Staerkel. “I live in Phoenix. We have older, very well-developed communities that have historically had an aging population with more eldercare. Now younger families are moving into these neighborhoods and doing revitalization. With that comes an increase in maternity and pediatrics from the change in demographics. These changes impact the needs of the facility and the types of security trends you see.”

Assess Your Facility’s Existing Infrastructure

Next, hospital leaders should conduct inventory on what the facility already has.

“The objective of any long-term goal should be the inclusion of legacy systems that are in the facility. You should always consider leveraging existing investments wherever possible,” she says. “We need to get a solid assessment of the technologies that are there, including brands, models, quantities and locations. Capture current software information, including software revision versions on all existing systems. It’s not unusual for us to find multiple access control systems and Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) within a single facility.”

Staerkel acknowledges the old theory of “rip and replace” is just not possible for most hospitals as they don’t have the budget.

“So you need to ask, ‘What’s here now? What are the capabilities? How do these capabilities align with where we are going? What can we leverage?’ And then, finally, ‘How do we supplement that and support that as well as adding infrastructure?'”

What Do We Need?

After a navigation session and assessment of existing infrastructures, then you can ask the question, “What do we need?” However, upgrading security systems to the “latest and greatest” comes with potential issues or threats that need to be taken into consideration.

“As an example, with video surveillance, you need to consider HIPAA and patient privacy. When utilizing video in areas where patient privacy would be a concern, you need to ensure you understand the needs of security while balancing and ensuring patient privacy and HIPAA compliance,” she explains. “You can utilize video in patient areas by leveraging modern software technologies and types of masking that ensure you maintain HIPAA compliance.”

When considering the video needs of a hospital, “You consider, ‘What do you need to see and why? What is the clarity needed and how might the video be used? What are the risks to consider?’ We are seeing video systems used in very innovative ways far beyond the legacy thinking of video surveillance. Systems are being utilized for active shooter scenarios, emergency evacuations, loss prevention and emergency management. Video is being integrated into multiple other hospital technologies, adding value throughout the facility to patients and to staff.”

When it comes to access control, hospitals need to consider who needs access to what and the multiple levels and layers of security needed for regulatory compliance, as well as safety.

“We will frequently see hospital staff with a stack of access cards, especially when a staff member requires access to multiple facilities. Minimizing the number of cards staff has to use and ensuring that the system is capable and designed for the holistic needs of the healthcare system is key,” says Staerkel. “The hospital is able to reduce costs through efficiency and make the facility safer and more productive.”

While security is one of Johnson Controls’ biggest initiatives in healthcare, Staerkel urges hospitals to look at how they can leverage these systems to achieve other goals in the hospital. For instance, through the work being done, Johnson Controls is seeing significant outcomes in operational efficiencies, parking management, wayfinding and patient experience.

“There’s assessment and analysis that has to be done to get the process started,” Staerkel emphasizes. “You need to ensure that you have laid a solid foundation in understanding where you are starting, collaborating with key stakeholders and ensuring that you are building a plan that considers the future.”

All infrastructures play a vital role in hospital safety, whether they are security-related or not, which is why all infrastructures deserve significant consideration when your hospital inevitably needs to upgrade one or many.

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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series