Resource Center

article / August 4, 2022

3 secrets of high-performance healthcare security leaders

Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital’s Chief of Police, Matt Abbadessa, explains why you need a new perspective, deeper relationships, and collaborative tech

From basketball to baking, what separates the best from the rest can be easy to overlook. That’s because what lies in the gap is rarely dramatic or obvious. Instead, it's filled with small, subtle differences that combined make a massive impact on outcomes. Over the 15 years I’ve spent in the security space, I’ve made a point to collect these differentiators, and I’ve included three of my favorites in this article. 

Let’s get started by exploring the power of perspective. 

Find the good in the bad

The nature of our work makes it extremely useful for healthcare security leaders to take a solutions-oriented approach to challenging situations. While never invited, each new issue contains an unrealized opportunity for improvement, if we have the presence of mind to find it. 

I’d like to illustrate this principle with a recent challenge we’ve all faced. The emergence of the COVID-19 virus created a global public health crisis that stressed every aspect of our society. Hospitals had to make innumerable adjustments, and their staff made heroic sacrifices to help the public navigate the unfolding disaster. Healthcare security teams had to pivot quickly as well, locking down access points, bolstering visitor screening procedures, investing in new weapons detection technology, and more.

In other words — as difficult as this time was — it forced us to adopt new measures that substantially improved our ability to ensure the safety of our environment. Even as the pandemic threat has subsided, we at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital have decided to keep many policies in place. 

I believe the best leaders in our industry look at bad situations differently. Instead of seeing challenges as something to put behind them as fast as possible, they view each real-world ordeal as an invaluable source of data that can — and should — inform their team's approach going forward.

Prioritize relationships

Healthcare security leaders cannot do their jobs in a silo. If you do not work to make deep connections across your industry and community, you’re cutting yourself off from essential resources that dramatically improve your ability to maintain safety within a medical environment. While the precise nature of your network depends on your context, the best healthcare security leaders prioritize developing relationships with their healthcare security peers and the local police force. 

  • Connecting with peers: One of the best ways to grow your network is by joining an association. I’m a member of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the leading association in this space. This organization develops industry best practices, drives standardization initiatives, provides comprehensive certifications, and generates in-depth research covering relevant issues in our space. My membership with this group keeps me updated on trends, opens up numerous training opportunities, and introduces me to other industry leaders. It’s an invaluable organization that every healthcare security leader should be a part of.  

  • Partnering with police: Your relationship with municipal and state law enforcement is vital, as they also provide services to your hospital community. To ensure this partnership flourishes, you must take deliberate steps to cultivate collaboration. Consider creating joint education events, creating memorandums of understanding, and developing a service level agreement (SLA) that outlines each group's commitments to each other. This kind of intentional coalition-building entails significant work, but, in my experience, the payoff is always worth that investment. 

Get smart on tech

While many hospitals run major elements of their operation via pen and paper processes, forward-thinking security leaders must continually pressure upper management to adopt automation where possible and move towards collaboration among systems. This shift is essential for security teams to both boost efficiency and effectiveness. 

  • Efficiency: Handling key processes like incident reporting manually can create an enormous lag between the initial incident and the security team’s response. Although this kind of friction isn’t acceptable in any security realm, it's particularly perilous in the environments we oversee. The healthcare system is home to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We owe it to our patients and staff to leverage automation in every area where it provides a measurable impact on outcomes.  

  • Effectiveness: It’s great to have the latest solutions in place, but to tap your tech's true potential, you must create a network of devices that work together. For example, most hospitals have a system that would immediately alert security if an intruder breached a door — but the tech would stop there. Leaders in this space, however, are taking things farther. In this case, that might mean nearby cameras would automatically orient towards that door to provide security with greater incident visibility. To ensure we’re building towards this level of interconnectivity, one of the first questions we ask when we consider implementing a new solution at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital is, “How can this work with our existing tech?”

Looking to the future of healthcare security

High-performance healthcare security leaders consider community relationships and technology to be the most impactful tools at their disposal. Together, community and technology empower us to take our mission to protect even further. The future of healthcare security is rooted in this powerful combination: Technology backed by community-driven insights, helping you stay agile and efficient even amidst the most trying challenges.