Hospitals and other medical care facilities present unique challenges to the security professional. Keeping patients, staff and visitors safe is a constant concern that must be balanced while maintaining an open and comfortable environment. Tangible assets such as prescription drugs, medical supplies and other high value items that are critical to patient care require rigorous security, yet must be easily accessed by authorized staff. Further, adherence to federal/industry regulations and compliance codes presents additional issues for the facility’s security management and must be folded into the overall operational security strategy.

Working in tandem with video surveillance and access control, a combination of key control technology and guard tour systems is an effective solution, as illustrated in the following three scenarios:

Key Control Systems – Regardless of the size or type of medical facility, a physical key control and management system is a fundamental security technology for controlling perimeter doors and those throughout the facility. By securing keys in a tamper proof key cabinet, the facility can meet the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) standards for performance that state: “the hospital controls access to and egress from security-sensitive areas.”

Key control systems are a custom-tailored solution designed to record the access history of each key, including user, date and time of check-out/return. By releasing assigned keys only to users with the proper authorization code, the system helps to ensure adherence to the hospital industry standardized policies and procedures. Using minimal wall space, the key storage cabinet can eliminate outdated lock boxes, unreliable manual logs and messy key identification tags. Typically constructed of rugged stainless steel, the systems are designed to resist abuse and are alarm-protected against tampering.

User-friendly PC application software can complement the system and deliver real-time polling transactions, status, alarm and reporting capabilities. Activity reports can be customized to trace key movements by time, date and user code or biometric access data.

Technology developments and new products have made it possible to integrate key control as part of a facility's networked security system. Open protocols enable connectivity to access control and other systems via RS-232 or networked via Ethernet to enable a comprehensive integrated security system.

Asset Lockers – Medical devices, radios, cell phones, hand-held computers and other equipment used by different personnel through the course of any given day represent potential security breaches if stolen or misplaced. Test material or data from research labs must also be secured when not in use, with access by authorized users only. Even weapons that may have been confiscated from ER patients are potential safety risks if not properly secured. To accommodate these everyday situations, asset lockers that are part of a key control system can provide the necessary storage and safekeeping of these items.

Access devices such as magnetic cards or proximity devices can also be secured in specially designed asset lockers that can be configured into a key control system and used in any combination with standard key or locker modules.

Guard Tour Systems – Automated guard tour systems are tools that security personnel can use to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, while helping to visibly reassure hospital staff that the premises are secure. Stations are set-up around the facility, and as the security guard walks by with the handheld device, the system reads and records when it was there.

The device can be programmed to prompt either sequential or random tours for the officers, and the officer can enter a standardized code at any station to report an incident or potential risk such as ice on a walkway or broken light fixture. In a medical environment, this can be a tremendous benefit to help counter liability issues.