How to Increase Security in Doctor's Offices, Hospitals, and Clinics

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An array of statistics illustrates the special risks to medical facilities

While they might seem safe, hospitals and other medical facilities can often be far from it, putting patients, medical workers, visitors, and other hospital staff at risk. In fact, workers in the healthcare sector are four times more likely to be victims of workplace violence, with 7.8 cases of serious violence for every 10,000 employees.

The what, where, and how of violence at medical facilities 

In 2013, 80% of the instances of violence directed at hospital workers were caused by interactions with patients. The remaining fifth comprised of interactions with other hospital customers, students, and inmates, among others. When reviewing these statistics, it’s also important to note that studies suggest that 30% or more of the assaults on staff are never reported to hospital management, meaning that it can be difficult to ascertain the true size of the problem.

Employee reporting policies are essential in order to create a truly secure environment

Each hospital has different policies, serves different patient populations, and faces a different series of security risks, meaning that policies that work in some hospitals may not always work in others. To make sure that your facility is adopting appropriate policies, it pays to listen to workers and staff – however, many of them don’t want to speak up.

Studies showing that only 70% of assaults on staff are ever reported also indicate that the employees who don’t report do so out of fear of retaliation, lack of confidence in the system, and lack of effective security and reporting policies. Fixing some of these problems can restore your staff’s confidence in hospital management and security, as well as help to identify weak points in your hospital's current procedures.

Integrated access control systems are a must for busy healthcare environments

Despite following basic security protocols, it can be difficult or impossible for many medical facility managers to effectively track and identify every person who enters and exits their buildings. In fact, a bustling hospital is often an incredibly easy place for a criminal to enter – whether it’s an estranged relative or business partner planning to assault a patient, or a thief attempting to steal expensive medical supplies. To gain unauthorized access to a medical facility, all an intruder needs to do is to brush up against a stranger outside and grab their visitor ID – or print a fake one off of his or her computer.

To help combat the risk of intruders, you can take a variety of steps to update your facility’s access control systems. First, you should consider doors with electronic locks and individual access cards to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to secure areas. Biometrics can be used for severely limited areas, such as prescription drug lock-ups. Front lobbies also need to be secure, and options like turnstiles or security vestibules can be an effective option in certain areas.

Identifying visitors is another aspect of access control at healthcare facilities. When it comes to visitor IDs and badges, it’s essential to make sure guards re-check a visitor’s ID card and reason for entry each time they enter the building. While it’s true that some can be faked, visitor IDs and badges should, if possible, contain a printed photo of the visitor to discourage trespassers from stealing a stranger’s visitor badge.

Video surveillance systems and intelligent video monitoring can help keep patients and staff safe

In addition to guards, surveillance systems are often at the center of any medical facility’s security strategy. Video feeds can help nurses monitor patients as well as assist all medical professionals in making sure everyone is safe and each patient’s needs are being adequately met. Live feeds can also help security keep a pulse on any potentially risky situations, so guards can stand by and act quickly if an incident becomes dangerous.

With so many rooms, patients, and areas to monitor, it can be difficult for staff to stay up-to-date at all times – and that’s where remote monitoring and intelligent video analytics come in.

Remote monitoring employs off-site staff to effectively and cost-efficiently monitor the high number of video feeds needed to ensure sufficient coverage of the hospital.

And intelligent video monitoring software can help security staff detect potential threats by using algorithms to analyze video for suspicious behavior patterns, followed by alerting staff. This technology can also instantly direct guards to feeds from areas where a panic button has been pushed or an alarm has recently gone off.

In addition to protecting personnel from violence, video monitoring can also help prevent patient theft, which some studies report as occurring at a rate of nearly 8 thefts per 100 beds.

Hospital emergency rooms pose particular risks to hospital security

While all doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics may be at risk for crime and violence, some areas stand out as particularly high risk. For example, emergency rooms, often filled with patients who have experienced drug overdoses, who are undergoing acute episodes of mental illness, or who have committed crimes, are of particular risk to medical staff. One study showed that 12% of emergency room nurses experience patient violence each week, making ERs one of the most dangerous areas of a hospital.

Psychiatric hospital wings, wards, and independent psychiatric hospitals are also at particular risk, with psychiatric medical aides experiencing the most patient violence of all types of medical workers. It’s estimated that 590 out of 10,000 experience violent injuries that force them to take time away from work.

Doctor’s offices and clinics may be at special risk for information security breaches

While doctor’s offices and small clinics may not have the same risk of violence as a large, urban medical center, that doesn’t mean that they don’t face serious risks. Often those, these are digital; for example, an unguarded computer at a doctor’s office or clinic can be a treasure trove of information for a hacker or identity thief. All a potential criminal has to do is to ask for an obscure file or some paperwork while they plug in a flash drive to an unattended computer – or simply take physical patient records right off a desk. And given the strict confidentiality rules in place to protect medical data, with penalties for HIPAA noncompliance ranging from fines or settlements to criminal cases, safeguarding information is an essential priority.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure that any physical files be stored securely and, ideally, away from medical office entrances or waiting areas. It’s also essential to make sure computers remain locked at all times except when being used by office staff. Training employees on these security procedures is important, as your staff’s ability to constantly practice good security methods will often determine the effectiveness of your strategy.

Effective security strategies for medical facilities take into account the human-centric nature of medicine

The process of making sure a medical facility remains secure is a delicate balance between ensuring certain areas are physically secure and maintain a welcoming, healing environment for patients, visitors, and staff. The best security plans understand this; combining access control and cutting edge technologies with input from employees, staff training, and a compassionate attitude toward all.

To learn more about how to increase security in your medical facility, contact POM Technologies today at 212.688.2767 or through our online form for a free consultation.