Security in healthcare facilities – similar to some other types of businesses – calls for traditional security answers such as policies, procedures and technologies ranging from visitor management and card access to security video. Emerging regulations, specific to privacy, chronic workplace violence incidents and information security threats now impact on the security profile.

Privacy rules aimed at patient information protection have spurred additional access controls, including biometrics, to secure paper and computer-based documents. Uniquely, healthcare security professionals who employ security video also report the need to position cameras in a way to protect patient privacy.


Concerning violence, “about ten percent or more of U.S. healthcare workers are assaulted each year,” said Tony York, CPP, CHPA, president, International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS). York, senior vice president of security at Hospital Shared Services, Denver, bases his U.S. assaults estimate on a recent meeting with officials from the National Health Services (NHS), the U.K.’s publicly-funded healthcare system. “We don’t have a national incident reporting system here, but the NHS reports 55,000 assaults on U.K. healthcare workers last year and they suspect at least another 55,000 incidents weren’t reported,” said York. “That’s 110,000 assaults in a healthcare system with only 1.3 million employees.”

That assessment is also reported by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), which a few years ago conducted a survey of 1,000 ENA members. It found that 86 percent had been the victim of workplace violence in the past three years, with nearly 20 percent reporting that they experience workplace violence frequently. Additionally, more than 40 percent of survey participants indicated their workplace was somewhat safe or not safe at all.

The “drying up” of U.S. behavioral healthcare funding, illustrated by Denver’s recent closings of five primary mental healthcare facilities according to York, is another reason for increased assaults on healthcare workers nationwide. With the decrease of behavioral care services, mental patients are flooding emergency departments and assaults are escalating.


York also cited another shocking emergency department statistic that must be addressed with security and access control. A four-year study conducted by the Henry Ford Medical Center, Detroit, reported that four percent of persons arriving at the emergency department carry weapons.

As an advocate of separating the walk-in/reception area from triage, treatment areas and patient quiet/safe rooms, York urged healthcare security “to design and retrofit emergency rooms with access control designs that protect hospital employees, but don’t inhibit the swiftness of ingress that care specialists need in emergencies.”

Then there is the threat from information security incidents.

According to a report in the Dayton Daily News, for example, two employees at Good Samaritan Hospital were accused of allegedly stealing the personal information of deceased patients for fraudulent online loan applications and bank accounts. A hospital spokesperson has told the media that beyond following federal laws protecting patient information, additional electronic safeguards are in place to alert if patient information is being accessed improperly.

Law enforcement officials said that the two employees used data of deceased Good Samaritan patients to fill out applications for online loans as well as open Internet bank accounts before moving the funds to an ATM withdrawal.


Healthcare security and safety officers provide invaluable -- yet often invisible -- support services to healthcare centers. Their diligence assures the community of the highest quality and access to healthcare.

At the beginning of this year, bird flu reemerged in several Asian countries and restarted a fear of a pandemic.

Influenza viruses have threatened the health of animal and human populations for centuries. A pandemic occurs when a novel strain of influenza virus emerges that has the ability to infect and be passed between humans. Because humans lack immunity to the new virus, a worldwide epidemic, or pandemic, can ensue. Three human influenza pandemics occurred in the 20th century. In the U.S., each pandemic led to illness in approximately 30 percent of the population and death in between 2 in 100 and 2 in 1,000 of those infected. It is projected that a modern pandemic, absent effective control measures, could result in the deaths of 200,000 to 2 million people in the United States alone. Since healthcare facilities are at the beachhead of such a threat, many security executives depend on the extensive information on federal government strategic and implementation plans for pandemic flu at

SIDEBAR: Emerging Violence Incidents

According to a survey of 1,000 emergency nurses:

86%     Victim in the past three years
20%     Experience workplace violence frequently
40%     Their workplace was somewhat safe or not safe at all

Source: Emergency Nurses Association