Making the case for strong IT in facility security

How rapidly evolving new technologies are changing hospital security.
By Benjamin Harris
12:41 PM
Making the case for strong IT in facility security

Update: HIMSS20 has been canceled due to the coronavirus. Read more here.

In a healthcare environment where patient care is paramount and lives are on the line, physical security elements like guards and CCTV cameras might seem like an afterthought. But in fact having a seamless and efficient security apparatus is paramount to the patient experience and can even take a leading role in how a hospital operates during intense periods or times of crisis. In order to step up to that role, security and IT departments have to work hand in hand- one side leveraging the capabilities of the other to anticipate and respond to security events.

“Everything is more and more dependent on building relationships with IT,” says Sean Owens, Director of Public Safety Technology & Non–Acute Care at Lee Health in Florida. His system spans seven counties with 70 total locations- all connected through a common IT security system. He says that everything from cloud-based video surveillance to voice-recognition analytics are totally revamping how security operates in a hospital and how it impacts the patient experience.

“Not only are you protecting assets and people, but in many ways you’re driving patient satisfaction and improvement of care,” says Paul Baratta, Business Development Manager with Axis Healthcare, a former police officer with a background in running hospital security and police departments. Melding IT with security means you can go beyond mere surveillance: Baratta says that connecting security infrastructure to a hospital’s EHR allows for patient observation and remote monitoring. If there’s a patient fall or a serious health incident like cardiac arrest, “you can have video available for the doctor in real time,” he says.

Leveraging IT from safety to satisfaction

Analytics that can listen in for things like aggressive behavior or even gunshots help give security officers a leg up in an environment where they can’t be everywhere at once and where the people they protect may not even notice a problematic event before it happens.

“Nurses are very thick skinned, and their tolerances are a little too high for aggressive behavior,” says Owens. He says that analytics that can spot aggression in patients through security footage helps alert officers to problems - sometimes even before anyone realizes there may be one.

“Before nurse activates panic alarm, we’re already watching the video in real time and assessing on whether to send someone,” he says. “We have occasionally responded before a problem is reported. From nurses eyes this is a godsend for safety.”

Marrying analytics to security can play a role in patient satisfaction as well. Baratta says that using queuing analytics helps more effectively manage staffing in places like patient registration. During slower shifts there are less people on hand at the registration stations but if suddenly a line forms at 3am, “we have analytic tools that send statistics to security to adjust staffing,” he says. He adds that because analytics can scale up or down staffing as needed, a hospital can more effectively use the staff it has on hand. “You’re not putting two people on that desk,” he says. “You have one there, use [the other] for other security functions.”

Paul Baratta and Sean Owens will talk about IT’s role in patient security and satisfaction at HIMSS20 in a session titled “IT’s Role in Patient Care and Comfort.” It's scheduled for Thursday, March 12, from 10-11 a.m. in room W330A.

Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.
Twitter: @BenzoHarris.
Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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