Hospitals are where we are at our most vulnerable. We go there when we need help, and we expect them to be safe, secure places where we can rest and heal. And yet, all too often, our hospitals are themselves vulnerable.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals rose 63% between 2011 and 2018, making hospital workers five times more likely to experience workplace violence than other workers. Worse, hospital workers account for 73% of all nonfatal workplace violence-related injuries, making them among the most vulnerable workers in America.
Hospital security systems can help stem the growing tide of violence at our places of healing. But with a dizzying array of security options available, it can be hard to know what makes the most sense for your type of clinical care facility. The following options will keep you safe, secure your facility, and ensure workers and visitors have the best possible experience.
Core Components of a Hospital Security System
Hospitals are, by nature, high-traffic facilities and are a critical part of the national infrastructure. Securing hospitals against violence is not only an investment in the safety of employees but a key factor in ensuring the public good.
A security system is an investment in not only workplace safety but employee retention. Turnover among Registered Nurses (RNs) can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and workplace violence contributes directly to an increase in turnover rates.
Research shows that violence at healthcare facilities costs $428.5 million annually, including $234.2 million in turnover costs, as well as millions in medical care, indemnity, disability, and absenteeism costs. And yet, only around 0.5% of hospital operating costs go toward security. If budget is a limiting factor, these are the security system components that should be installed or improved first.
A video surveillance system as a baseline security protocol makes sense for any size facility. A modern video surveillance system can be activated by motion sensors and will alert hospital staff in the event of a disturbance. Some systems can even detect sounds related to gun violence. The mere presence of video cameras can also act as a deterrent to unwanted behavior.
Video surveillance systems will record and store footage for use in analyzing past events and can help in determining the course of action for deterring or responding to future incidents. These recordings also provide evidence of a disturbance in the event of an investigation.
Alarm systems provide instant notification of an intrusion in sensitive areas. When properly monitored, along with video surveillance, alarm systems provide security for unmanned areas. Alarms can also detect gas leaks, smoke, fire, carbon dioxide, or dangerous substances, making them an important backbone of a robust hospital security system.
Hospital Security Systems for High-Risk Facilities
Some facilities are more heavily trafficked or more at risk of incidents than others. Facilities in high-crime areas, or those that have suffered violent incidents in the past, should be secured with the highest levels of hospital security systems.
Body-worn cameras are proven to reduce the frequency of incidents and can serve as a deterrent against violence directed at the individuals wearing them. A body-worn camera can also allow hospital staff to review incidents accurately after the fact and can help hospital staff make proper security decisions in the wake of an incident. Footage from body-worn cameras can also be used as evidence in prosecuting violent offenders.
As traditional magnetometers, or “metal detectors,” are being replaced by next-generation touchless scanning devices, weapon detection is becoming more precise and easier to implement. Modern weapon detectors do not require individuals to remove a bag or clothing to detect the presence of weapons, reducing the long lines and waiting traditionally associated with the scanning process. These modern devices are also more accurate, employing sensors and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to display where, on a person, a weapon is detected in real-time.
In especially high-risk facilities or facilities with a large volume of traffic, a security presence can be an effective deterrent. Armed security officers present a “show of force” to deter violent individuals and can provide a rapid response in the event of an incident. A security presence provides an effective augmentation to a variety of other security solutions.
Hospital Security Systems for Large Facilities
Larger facilities require additional security. Not only do they see a higher volume of patients and visitors, but they are more likely to be visited by those engaged in criminal activity or under the influence of drugs. Hospital security systems for larger hospitals must take this higher traffic and higher risk into account.
Access Control Systems
Whether through RFID badge systems or more modern biometrics, proper access control can ensure that only those designated as authorized personnel can enter certain areas of the hospital. Access control systems can be as basic as locked doors or turnstiles or incorporate technologies like facial recognition, hand scanners, badge scanners, and more. Paired with video surveillance and alarm systems, access control can be a powerful tool for ensuring that restricted areas remain secure.
Data and Logistics Security
Healthcare data breaches hit an all-time high in 2021; more than 19 million records were released in 337 breaches in the first half of 2022. The average cost of a data breach is now estimated at $10.1 million in terms of detection, escalation, forensic, and lost business costs. Given the enormous cost of suffering a breach, an investment in data security not only makes financial sense but can help facilities ensure compliance with HIPAA standards.
Data security includes hardening internal networks and securing access to hospital systems. A robust data security system will secure your protected health information (PHI) while preventing intrusion by bad actors. With the hospital supply chain market predicted to reach $2 billion by 2025, the threats to hospital logistics and data storage are becoming more severe. One loose link in the supply chain could put the entire chain at risk. Malicious actors could manipulate supplies before reaching healthcare consumers or infiltrate the supply chain logistics to access PHI.
An effective security plan is crucial for maintaining the safety of our healthcare centers and the people within them.