Access control in healthcare is at a pivotal point and because of very specific requirements it can make for an exciting, yet challenging market for systems integrators.
A majority of the 100+ bed hospitals in North America have an access control system in place that is more than a decade old. Many are looking to upgrade those systems to a more user friendly and technologically current access control platform that enables them to not only increase security measures by replacing storage room and pharmacy keys with access control cards, for example, but drive additional organizational benefits from the security investment.
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In the healthcare market, the adoption of new technology is driven by increased security demand from the general public and by hospital management, who view this as a valuable asset for liability protection. As such, access control systems come into play in a variety of areas, not only in risk mitigation but also in operational areas such as state and federal funding. While a majority of grants and other funding bodies do not directly target security or access control, many are linked together. For example, State Medicaid funding can be tied to Quality of Service rankings, so hospitals view this as an investment that extends beyond the realm of security and safety.
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Access control in hospitals can vary greatly by area, but all systems are designed to make sure that whoever is in that section of the hospital is authorized to be in that particular location. Areas such as the pharmacy, nursery and psychiatric unit have controlled entrances and exits, areas that are becoming of greater focus to compliance and auditing agencies that oversee healthcare facilities. Many staff members who visit or are stationed there have access to a panic button or pendant in the event of a duress situation. Because of regulations concerning the storage of certain classes of drugs, the pharmacy is typically protected by an integrated access control and video surveillance system that can also help reduce the area’s high risk of theft. An integrated access control and video surveillance system is also utilized to deter infant abduction and patient wandering.
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Over the past few years, hospitals have continued to maintain their reputation as hotbeds of construction activity. It’s not uncommon for a hospital to construct new wings, while walls or doors are constantly being shifted around to accommodate new treatment and testing areas. This presents both challenges and additional opportunities for systems integrators and security directors alike.
Without a doubt, the unique and ever changing needs of a hospital environment require vigilance, a partnership between the security, facility and IT departments, and an ongoing assessment of security challenges.
Jim Stankevich is Global Mgr. Security & Lynx for Tyco Security Products. He can be reached at JStankevich@tycointo.com.