Healthcare organizations must keep staff, patients and visitors safe, while dealing with the public and situations of heightened emotions on a daily basis. Add a worldwide health pandemic into the mix such as COVID-19, and healthcare organizations – particularly hospitals and emergency rooms – are now seeing more traffic and an increase in violence and escalated situations.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which collects incidents of workplace violence, says mental health professionals and medical practitioners experience some of the highest rates of workplace violence in the U.S. Though many healthcare organizations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic saw fewer patients and visitors, that was quickly reversed as the virus spread and hospitals have allowed visitors back through their doors.
Increased risks have led many healthcare organizations to place a greater emphasis on physical security solutions, says Chris Sessa, Director – Key Accounts at Salient Systems. In addition to an increased emphasis on security from healthcare stakeholders, significant security technology improvements, open architecture platforms and improved integration capabilities with video management systems (VMS) have led to a myriad of possible solutions ideally suited for the healthcare sector. These solutions can allow security leaders to boost safety and improve efficiency, while adding overall value to the entire organization.
“We are seeing more integrations than ever in this space, which provide more security and allow the organization to prove operational value and cost savings in a bigger way,” says Sessa.
Some of the integrations tied to the VMS that Sessa is seeing in the healthcare space include medical equipment and asset tracking, intelligent door hardware, infant abduction systems, nurse/staffing panic or call buttons, gun detection systems, weapons detection screening, and analytics such as hand-hygiene tracking, license recognition within parking lots, and facility mapping.
Converging data from individual technologies under one platform has obvious benefits, not the least of which is greatly improved situational awareness. For instance, with intelligent door hardware, an infant abduction system and video surveillance under the VMS platform, operators can pull up maps, data and video clips all tied to an event in near real-time to quicken incident response time and pinpoint response procedures.
“A lot of what is driving these integrations is there is much more happening within the hospitals and healthcare facilities than ever before and it has exploded that need for deeper information,” Sessa says.
Getting that deeper information and ensuring the organization can capitalize on the benefits of a connected solution, however, require healthcare security leaders to make some key considerations:
Flexibility and Scalability. As Sessa explains, more healthcare organizations are finding value in their VMS by expanding use of its data to other non-security departments, so a system with flexibility and scalability is crucial. For example, night-shift medical employees can check parking lot surveillance before leaving at night; supervisors can track medication dispensing systems such as Pyxis tied to access and video data; and management can monitor on-floor security staff activities.
Implementing a VMS that allows organizations the flexibility to dole out specific access, views and reports based on role and responsibility can increase the value of any VMS. Likewise, a scalable system allows the organization to implement new technologies and integrations as it grows to garner more value and optimize operations.
Simplicity. Having a single pane view of security technologies and systems is beneficial to any security staff or non-security staff alike navigating a VMS. Having a VMS that is user-friendly and simple to use is essential to cut down on training time. In addition, many modern VMSs have the ability to ping or notify security staff and operators when an event occurs, cutting down on operator fatigue that can come from staring at a video wall for hours at a time.
Open Platform. Not only is an open platform essential for easier integrations at any organization, but in the healthcare space, as organizations expand or take over other locations, disparate systems across facilities are particularly common. With an open VMS platform, healthcare organizations can integrate different access control systems and different camera brands all under one view, Sessa says, saving the organization from ripping and replacing everything at once.
Processing and Bandwidth. In hospitals and healthcare organizations where electronic and networked equipment spans far beyond security technology, having a full-scale VMS that doesn’t take up too much processing power and bandwidth is critical. For this reason, many organizations look for dynamic resolution scaling or the ability for the VMS to only send video when needed, eliminating constant processing of high-resolution video that can overwhelm an organization’s networks.
By paying attention to these considerations for a VMS, healthcare security leaders and other stakeholders can reap the benefits of today’s continually improving security technologies by providing greater situational awareness and keeping frontline employees and staff safer and more secure.