Physical Security Technology Keeps Hospital Staff and Patients Safe

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Physical Security Technology Keeps Hospital Staff and Patients Safe

Physical Security Technology Keeps Hospital Staff and Patients Safe

In an industry understandably laser-focused on all things cybersecurity, it can seem as if physical security gets short shrift. But talk to healthcare professionals across the country, or to the leaders of most hospital IT teams, and it quickly becomes clear that’s not the case.

“Hundreds of studies over the past 10 years all say the same thing,” says Paul Sarnese, immediate past president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. “If you work in healthcare, you’re four to five times more likely to be a victim of aggravated assault than you are in any other occupation.”

That reality and the related threats to patients have led the vast majority of healthcare systems to invest not only in security staff and training but also in improved video surveillance systems.

In California’s Imperial Valley, El Centro Regional Medical Center sought out Verkada for a cloud-based solution to scale video security across its 165-bed hospital and nine other facilities.

Like many healthcare organizations, the medical center had endured its share of dangerous situations over the years, says Darryl Mark, associate administrator for information services.

“Patients attacking employees, disgruntled family members,” he adds. “We had a lot of incidents where our security team would respond, but we’d rarely have reliable insight into what happened because we didn’t have any cameras set up.”

In late 2019, the healthcare system turned to Verkada and began installing cameras in its outpatient facilities. The process went quickly at first, Mark says, but they were forced to pause as the COVID-19 pandemic picked up. Their final installations, in the hospital itself, are slated for completion in 2021.

Safety and Security at Scale for Healthcare
The new technology has already proved its value where it is in place at El Centro Regional Medical Center, Mark says. At one site, for example, the cameras recorded footage of a visitor stashing contraband in the facility’s bathrooms ahead of a scheduled visit by local prisoners. “Our environmental services people were finding these things, and they had an idea who might have put them there, but they could only remember what the individual was wearing, not what she looked like.”

Using an analytics tool that is part of their Verkada system, staff searched surveillance video with the details they knew, Mark says. “We put in the clothing parameters, and it pulled her right up. Then all we did was send the footage to law enforcement, and they used it as part of their investigation.”

As his team members deal with security during the pandemic, Mark says, they’re always finding new places across the organization where additional cameras are needed.

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