Don’t Overlook Healthcare Audio Monitoring: Selling & Installation Best Practices

The coronavirus pandemic has accentuated the importance of audio monitoring in healthcare environments. Here are tips for installing these technologies and how they can add to your bottom line.

Don’t Overlook Healthcare Audio Monitoring: Selling & Installation Best Practices

In a world of ever-evolving security technologies, staying ahead of the curve is what sets successful installing security contractors apart from the rest. Offering new products and services that expand system capabilities to existing or potential customers is a tried and true method for increasing revenue per customer; it also aids in the creation of strong brand loyalty.

While video surveillance, access control and intrusion detection are often thought of as the “bread and butter” for security installations, there is a large void left by these technologies. A growing opportunity comes by way of audio monitoring.

Audio monitoring solutions are an attractive offering for any installing security contractor. Audio provides additional security and communications functionality for customers and distinguishes an integrator’s portfolio from the competition.

Selling and installing audio devices does not necessitate extensive technical knowledge. Training requirements are simple and straightforward. In other words, there is a low barrier to entry to offer these solutions, making it a logical addition for security professionals to add to their technology offerings.

During virus outbreaks like H1N1, Ebola and most recently, COVID-19, healthcare institutions face heightened operational challenges. Security technologies like audio are uniquely positioned to address dilemmas confronting medical facilities brought on by epidemics and pandemics. Security dealers and integrators that take note will find it well worthwhile and see new business opportunities.

Audio in Healthcare Environments

For healthcare facilities open to elective procedures and nonemergency care, limiting potential virus exposure for non-COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers is no simple task. Medical staff working in hospitals can be especially vulnerable.

The stress of possible exposure can take a heavy toll on employees’ physical and mental health, and ultimately lead to high levels of anxiety and burnout. Suffice to say, new protocols for patient care are key to combatting these issues.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first line of defense for healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. Doctors and nurses must put on facemasks, face shields, gowns, gloves and protective eyewear all before entering hot zones and interacting with potential COVID-19 patients.

Audio devices with talk/listen capabilities can help to alleviate some of the issues faced when handling infectious disease patients. A recent example, and proof of concept, came during the 2014 Ebola outbreak when one New York City hospital was fast-tracked to set up a specialty ward to treat potential Ebola patients arriving from JFK Airport.

To more safely care for those affected, hospital staff required a system that enabled nurses to more easily communicate with the patients and those getting prepped to go into patient rooms. To meet this challenge the hospital installed two-way, hands-free audio devices paired with video surveillance cameras for remote patient care.

For this type of solution, audio base stations can be installed at nurses’ stations, while speaker/microphone units can be placed on the ceiling of patient rooms or other hot zones. The speaker/microphone units are able to monitor audio 24/7, allowing nurses to listen for signs of distress or medical requests any time.

With a hands-free audio device mounted near a bed in the intensive care unit, a nurse can listen for sounds like heavy breathing or coughing. With just the press of a button, nurses can remotely consult patients and disseminate information, all while limiting exposure. Fewer in-person interactions means less consumption of valuable PPE, thereby saving hospital resources and staff time.

Audio monitoring devices can also be placed in waiting rooms and entryways. These spaces often hold family members whose frayed nerves may manifest as verbal and physical aggression if they are unsatisfied with the level of care being given to a loved one.

Microphones with audio analytics at reception desks and emergency waiting rooms can capture the beginnings of combative and threatening behavior. This quickly alerts hospital security and administrative personnel to the situation, reducing the reaction time for incident response protocols.

One example of a two-way audio monitoring system is this offering manufactured by Louroe Electronics.

Increased Revenue Opportunities

For installing security contractors, adding audio to the list of product offerings for indoor hospital areas is an easy home run and upsell. This is because audio is not only useful, but also affordable for the customer. Installing security contractors can sell audio solutions to both old and new customers to increase profit margins on healthcare projects, driving the bottom line. At the end of the day, every dollar counts and selling audio is a simple way to increase revenue.

Audio devices also drive profits by reducing installation time and labor expenses. IP microphones and speaker/microphone units typically require minimal setup due to their plug-and-play nature, making configuration fast and easy.

When connecting microphones to an existing video solution, simply plug the device to an existing surveillance camera. Audio monitoring is then easily accessible with the video stream.

Being a Better Business Partner

During these uncertain times, it is important to approach healthcare end users with a long-lasting business partnership in mind. Deployments in the healthcare field often come with many regulations and multiple layers of decision makers.

As such, it is important to carefully listen to the needs presented at each level to fully understand the complexities of the installation. Once the concerns of security and administrative personnel are understood, dealers and integrators must illustrate subject matter expertise.

The use of deployment case studies, solutions-focused white papers, customer references and even videos to demonstrate a proof of concept for audio monitoring solutions. These examples not only sell the end customer but can tangibly demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) and cost-saving benefits.

After the system is sold and installed, it is important that staff understand how to use it. In fast-paced workplaces, like healthcare facilities, staff must be knowledgeable on how to use the two-way audio devices. Providing training materials and ongoing technical support is crucial for customer satisfaction.

As the healthcare industry continues to adapt to the changing situation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, comprehensive security and safety solutions will play a large role in mitigating risks and helping staff provide the highest level of patient care. Two-way audio monitoring devices are certainly a part of the long-term solution to better protect doctors, nurses and patients and maximize peace of mind.

3 Best Practices for Installing Audio

To ensure the success of an audio deployment, make use of these best practices for system design and installation, as well as general tips for lawful audio monitoring.

  1. Post clear and visible signage — This first best practice is by far the most important. In order to remain within compliance of federal and local audio monitoring laws, there must be clearly visible signage placed at all major points of entry (front, side and rear entrances) that communicate that audio and video surveillance is taking place on premises. Not only does this aid in legal compliance, but it also serves as a strong warning to all potential assailants.
  2. Be mindful of microphone placement — When designing the security solution, determine precisely where integrating audio would be the most effective and helpful for medical staff. Two-way devices in patient rooms and nurses’ stations are an obvious choice, but similarly consider where other security equipment will be installed. Utilize acceptable camera placement guidelines as a model for appropriate audio placement. This requires both common sense, collaboration with healthcare administrators and strategic consideration.
  3. Make staff aware of the purpose of audio monitoring — Lastly, it is important to communicate with staff to reaffirm that audio will only be used for communications and security purposes to investigate and resolve events. Ensuring that all parties in the facility are aware of two-way audio devices can increase their utility as medical personnel are more likely to use the system when the need arises.

Richard Brent is CEO of Los Angeles-based Louroe Electronics.

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