Medical Market Boosts Business Health
A hospital in Northern California took sweeping action this summer to stem repeated acts of violence and other yearslong troubles in its psychiatric unit after the federal government threatened to revoke millions in annual funding. Besides hiring deputies for round-the-clock security to protect patients and staff, the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center is spending $2 million to install a new alarm and video surveillance system.
The hospital’s need to improve its security infrastructure points up a recurring theme across the nation: according to medical security experts, health-care facilities – large and small – offer a bountiful pool of new sales opportunities. But don’t expect to dive headlong into this increasingly lucrative vertical market without first laying the groundwork, industry veterans say. If success is to be achieved, security integrators must recognize the unique challenges and client requirements presented by the medical industry.
Rob Schorr, vice president of sales for MDI Security Systems, a provider of unified security support and technology based in San Antonio, says security professionals can successfully build up a medical consultation practice if they are able to identify with:
- the medical customer
- the medical security environment
- special security concerns in the medical field
- the value of using an IP-based security platform in any medical environment
This report will analyze these distinct challenges the medical industry presents to the security integrator, plus delve into related requirements from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO).
Pinpointing the Decision Maker at Medical Practices Is Key
A significant window of opportunity to sell medical security solutions lies in the fact that, while doctors may use the latest medical and business equipment to run their practices, most offices lag years behind in security technology.
“One reason for this is that the focus of a medical practice is to treat patients,” says Art Scanlan, vice president of business solutions at BIF Technologies, a medical technology consulting firm based in San Antonio. As a result, he says, security technology simply falls by the wayside or maybe the practice has inherited antiquated building infrastructure.
“It’s easy to follow a path of least resistance by accepting the status quo,” Scanlan says, “but that may put the practice at risk with new laws and requirement conformance.”
Most medium-size to large medical practices hire a full business staff, including a chief financial officer, to help them manage their practice. Oftentimes the doctor will refer security solutions purchase decisions to their administrators or business staff, Scanlon says.
“A security integrator needs to understand the dynamics of each practice if he or she wants to sell successfully to them,” he says.
In the case of smaller practices, oftentimes an administrator performs the role of doorkeeper to all medical business operations, including the hiring of outside contractors, such as accountants. Security professionals will have to gain the trust of the doorkeeper before they can expect that security recommendations will ever reach the decision maker – likely, the doctor.
“To be truly successful, a security professional should be viewed by his clients on the same level as a doctor’s CPA or attorney,” Scanlon says. “The doctor, in most cases, serves as part of the decision-making process in the final selection of the security professional just like the CPA who manages his taxes.”
Facility’s Security Environment Dictated by Size, Unique Factors
Along with evaluating decision-making dynamics, security integrators must appreciate the working environment of each medical facility, says Vince Fernandez, vice president of operations for Jenkins Security Solutions of Gold River, Calif., which specializes in large health-care clientele.
“Hospitals are different than any other business setting,” Fernandez says. “They want to limit access, but they want to appear friendly to the public.”
In addition to access control, large hospital systems are also incorporating video surveillance, says Robin Hattersley Gray, executive editor of Campus Safety magazine, a publication that covers the hospital, school and university security markets. “These facilities can encompass hundreds of acres, thousands of beds and 200 or more buildings. With so much area to cover, remote CCTV monitoring is an obvious solution that many hospitals have already adopted and are upgrading.”
The size of a given hospital will also have its own unique security requirements: a hospital in an urban setting has very different security concerns than a suburban one, Fernandez says. In Los Angeles, Fernandez noted gang shootings as a major difference between the two settings.
“If there is a major incident, some hospitals will set up different emergency rooms for each gang to avoid further problems, or they will bring extra off-duty police to increase security,” he says. With a unified system, each emergency room can be monitored, accordingly.
While larger hospitals often require additional security resources in multiple locations, Fernandez says, the mother of all security concerns for medical industry administrators is infant abductions.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, since 1983 there have been 241 abductions of babies up to six-months-old by nonfamily members. Of those, 119 were taken from health-care facilities and 122 from the home or elsewhere. Eleven are still missing, according to the agency.
Larger hospitals are expected to have well-established security procedures and better-trained personnel to prevent these “Code Pink” abductions. Parents are also routinely instructed on security measures, and transponders are often attached to infants that trigger alarms and lock doors in the event of an attempted abduction. Some hospitals employ ID card systems where the mother gives a password so nurses know who has been granted visitation rights.
According to Fernandez, these and other well-established safety procedures common to larger hospitals are not always employed at smaller medical facilities, which lack additional resources to protect their newborns.
In California and elsewhere, state health regulations require hospitals to deploy security equipment meant to deter abductions.
“Some smaller hospitals in other parts of the country can’t afford a stronger security presence if they can’t get federal funding to pay for this,” Fernandez says. Once funding is found to update security platforms, security integrators should help these smaller hospitals find unified systems to protect their practices, he says.
And there is one more issue with maternity wards for security managers to mind. According to Schorr, “there’s a growing trend toward violence, especially with unwed mothers and the baby’s fathers. Hospitals often call in security staff to deal with domestic violence issues.”
Standard Access Solutions Not Recommended for Pharmacies
Another big cause of anxiety for hospital administrators: access to their pharmaceutical departments.
Although security managers recognize the need for cameras or special access control systems, some hospitals employ pharmaceutical managers who can be apathetic when it comes to administering security measures. “Many health-care security directors must regularly remind their hospital staff to use the omni-cell narcotics cabinets that have been provided for proper control of medicines,” says Gray.
Fernandez says, “A pharmaceutical manager should be the onl
y person with a key to the Schedule II room where the drugs are counted out each day. However, there have been many incidents at hospitals
that show that some staff found ways around the security.”
Fernandez advises hospital security managers to work with a design team during the early phases of building a pharmaceutical unit. A system should be employed that allows security professionals to deny access to everyone on staff.
“A security manager has to work with his pharmaceutical manager to work up a plan that allows the security operations center to see anyone getting access or requesting certain drugs,” he says.
Fernandez says new technologies like 3D video motion detection, unified into the video system, are very effective in securing specific areas or bins.
Security integrators should recommend longer-range readers, card systems and eventually biometrics that notify security staffers when someone accesses a Schedule II room, Schorr advises.
“The problem with a standard access control card is that someone can borrow or steal a pharmaceutical staff’s card to get access to narcotics,” he says. “A biometric device can prevent the unauthorized access to a pharmacy, but they’re time consuming.”
As part of a unified system, these point products become action oriented, as security managers program the system to lock down specific doors or areas and implement camera tracking of an event.
Criminal Body Part Harvesting Is Plaguing Hospital Facilities
More and more, facility managers are categorizing the hospital morgue as a high-risk zone.
Hospitals are forced to take extra precautions to protect cadavers because trafficking in body parts illegally harvested from the dead has become a lucrative, secretive business driven by growing demand for human bones and tissue.
“Medical research facilities have gone as far as to put tracking devices into these donated bodies and have added special access control equipment and cameras to monitor these areas because of the values of the human body parts,” Schorr says.
Putting a halt to the morbid indecency of illicit body part harvesting is enough reason to bolster security measures. Importantly, so is ensuring the survival of the medical applications made possible by the use of cadavers.
“Imagine someone has requested that when they die they want their body donated to the local medical school, and then their family or friends read that someone has sold their father or best friend’s tissue to one of these crooks,” Schorr says. “That’s why teaching hospitals have taken this extra precaution. Their research and the training of future doctors require the donations of these cadavers.”
IP-Based Security Systems Provide Solutions and Save Money
With so many concerns, Fernandez says medical administrators and their security team could realize a significant amount of savings through the use of IPbased, unified video security systems.
“Instead of adding additional coax or other forms of wiring to set up a security network, medical administrators and their security team can unify surveillance cameras, along with other security products onto this IP-based network,” Fernandez says.
The best time to plan for a security installation for a medical client is when it is considering IT needs during the building’s design phase.
Fernandez suggests that security professionals review the architect’s plan and advise them on the placement of future security devices. For instance, he says, a cafeteria cash register and its IT wiring can be utilized to piggyback security devices onto a building’s computer network infrastructure.
Medical facility builders typically factor in the need for Category-5 wiring when designing their plans. This allows each register to report sales and data to accounting financial centers, along with corresponding real-time video clips. Security professionals, according to Fernandez, can use the same wiring to set up a camera that captures each sales transaction at a hospital cafeteria and an IP access system that allows the employers into the safe or kitchen.
“Planned properly, the IP-based solution can unify the security platform for any medical facility, from a large chain of hospitals to a small medical practice with one or two doctors,” says Schorr.
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