How IP Camera Systems and IP Access Control Systems Increase Safety in Hospitals
By Virginia Fair
The following appeared on NBCLA.com, the website of the Los Angeles NBC affiliate station.
“A man who allegedly dressed as a nurse to fool security personnel was arrested for stealing medical supplies from a Fountain Valley Hospital, police announced Monday. The suspect is accused of stealing from Fountain Valley Regional Hospital three separate times since May.”
Fountain Valley Regional Hospital is not alone. According to the 2012 Crime and Security Trends Survey, underwritten by the Foundation of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the crime rate of hospitals rose by close to 37 percent in just two years, from slightly less than 15,000 in 2010 to over 20,500 in 2012. This increase occurred in all crime categories: larceny, theft, simple assault, vandalism, rape and sexual assault. The highest-ever number of homicides occurred, as well, with 8 reported by responding hospitals.
Sad to say, 98 percent of today’s healthcare facilities experience day to day violence and criminal incidents, the type of crime varying from location to location, with urban hospitals facing different challenges than rural ones. Specific locales may face different security challenges as well. For example Hospital A’s Emergency Room may be susceptible to gang violence while Hospital B’s pharmacy may be vulnerable to the prevalence of local, or even in-house narcotic use.
Overall, what accounts for the vulnerability of hospitals? A number of commonalities include
- 24/7 – 365 day access
- Proportionately female staffing
- Reduced night and weekend staffing
- Increase in mentally ill patients
- Stress and anxiety among family members of patients
- Access to drugs and money
- Frustration caused by long waits in emergency departments or outpatient areas
- Cultural diversity and lack of understanding of these differences
It’s easy to see that providing security is a challenge. But IP technology can solve many of a hospital’s problems.
Areas of Concern
It has been said that the infrastructure of a hospital is only slightly less complex than that of a nuclear facility with all its corridors, labs and rooms full of hulking machines. Light conditions vary, with some areas being uniformly well-lit and others remain relatively dark due to equipment requirements or to conserve energy overnight.
The entire hospital requires coverage, but several areas require more security than others:
Occasions of abduction are rare but hospitals must be prepared.
The controlled substances stored here are under lock and key, with each hospital drawing up its own particular security routines for access and inventory control. However staff members with a drug habit or seeking to supplement their incomes, dealing drugs, can find ways to circumvent controls. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
With emotions already on high, it’s easy for a distraught, worried family member to lash out at triage nurses or security guards, or the person waiting next to them.
Add to this mentally ill persons reaching crisis stage, and the increasing number of homeless coming in out of the cold, and it’s trouble waiting to happen.
Concern is a two way street in this, quite often, remote area. Access needs to be restricted since the patients within are quite vulnerable. Egress also is a concern since some patients could pose a threat to the general well-being if free and unsupervised.
Let’s look at how IP technology can be put to work to provide security.
The areas noted above, as well as the parking areas, entrances, lobby, cafeteria, and elevators would benefit from having an IP camera system in place. Every area of a hospital presents its own problem but, fortunately, the features built into today’s IP cameras provide an arsenal of weapons to neutralize them.
- High Resolution Video: Megapixel cameras are an excellent choice for overviews of areas such as the pharmacy and nursery where clarity and detail are necessary not only for real time viewing but also for sharing recorded video with police for use in forensic investigation.
- Low light Capacity: Just because the lights are dimmed in admin areas after most administrators and staff have left for the day doesn’t mean the offices and corridors don’t warrant monitoring. Intruders like the individual noted in the beginning of this article, may be lurking about. In any low light area, a camera’s light sensitivity must be considered. Light sensitivity refers to the smallest amount of light necessary for the camera to produce a video of usable quality.
- Wide Dynamic Range: Another challenge posed by hospitals is areas where light levels vary simultaneously within a single scene. This is known as wide dynamic range. Areas in a hospital affected by such a contrast might be the main entrance doors with bright daylight outside giving way to darker lighting in the entry vestibule during the day, and the opposite at night, the parking garage where vehicles enter with glaring headlights, or areas filled with reflected lights such as the ER.
The beauty of employing an IP network of cameras is that one is not limited to one type of camera. A hospital might employ standard resolution cameras in one area, ones with wide dynamic range in another, and some with low light sensitivity in yet another. Since IP cameras are network-attached, security personnel can monitor all these areas in real time from their command center or any Windows PC. And, with the proper Video Recording system (VMS or NVR) in place, alarms and alerts can be sent to designated personnel if the security in any area has been breached.
The video recording system can be used in a number of ways.
- Real time viewing: Allows a security person to watch sensitive areas
- Video recording: Allows you to review the video that can help identify a person or missing equipment.
- Alarm Notification: Can alert the security person that a person is in a secure area, a bag has been left, or equipment has been moved.
Unlike financial institutions or government agencies, hospitals cannot institute near total shutdowns overnight nor can they totally restrict large areas since medical staff needs to navigate the hospital quickly and efficiently. Yet not everyone has to be everywhere all the time. IP door access can be configured so that individual badges and credentials only allow access to the specific areas that concern them. In addition, when combined with Video Management Software, the validity of the credentials can be further pinpointed to grant access only during the hours of their shifts.
IP door access control’s modular system allows a hospital to add new reader controllers as situations arise. Ideal locations for readers include doors to the
- Pharmacy, as well as any cabinets storing controlled substance medications that could be abused
- Records office
- Psychiatric wing
Since visiting relatives to the last two areas listed above will not have been issued credentials, an IP intercom with an embedded camera could offer manual door release once they were identified.
Perhaps after reading this, you can understand, why in the keynote address to the 2011 Secure Cities conference Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake referred to network camera systems as force multipliers.
Hospital administrators and security officers wanting information about how Kintronics can design an IP camera system or IP access control system can call us at 914-944-3425 to speak to one of our sales engineers or fill out a request for information form.