James Somerville-Smith of Honeywell on why keeping a security system up to date is a vital part of a hospital’s success, and why it needn’t cost the earth
With hospital budgets continuing to tighten, administrators must face the difficult task of prioritising investments. With consistent pressure to increase the money spent on drugs, equipment, training, recruitment and a whole host of other variables, physical security has – understandably perhaps – slipped down the ‘to do’ list. In this article, James Somerville-Smith, channel marketing leader at Honeywell, explains that keeping a security system up to date is a vital part of a hospital’s success, and needn’t cost the earth
Although they are places of heroism and good work, hospitals can also be prone to crime. For example thieves stealing patient or staff possessions, or indeed expensive equipment like computers and tablets. Another common crime in the hospital environment is the theft of drugs and medication. And there’s violence – against patients and staff – which can take many different forms, from minor to extreme cases.
In the face of huge financial challenges, it can be tough to make the case for replacing an existing security system
According to figures from NHS Protect, physical assaults against hospital staff in England increased by nearly 9% in 2013-14. Violent attacks on staff have a negative impact on the hospital’s reputation, sector recruitment, and the organisation’s overall morale. It can also open the door to protracted legal battles.
Theft is also an ongoing issue in healthcare, with weekly incidents of stolen drugs, equipment and property reported right across Europe, exacerbating already-stretched hospital budgets. Over the summer it was announced that Italy is spearheading efforts to bring a criminal ring accused of stealing drugs from hospitals to justice. Theft of equipment costs hospitals thousands every year and interrupts day-to-day operational processes.
It begs the question, why aren’t more hospitals investing in bolstering their security? The answer is simple: money.
In a Western world still finding its feet after the 2007-8 recession, hospital administrators are under constant pressure to do more with less - to cut waiting lists at the same time as cutting costs; and to adopt game-changing medical technology capable of saving millions of lives while reducing OPEX and CAPEX expenditure. In the face of these huge financial challenges, it can be tough to make the case for replacing an existing security system.
However, the fact is that there are a number of steps that any hospital can take in order to increase the security of their patients, staff and property that don’t cost the earth.
Access control is one of the most-effective security solutions that hospitals have at their disposal when it comes to combatting theft. The ability to effectively ‘ring-fence’ certain areas of a hospital, restricting access to a small group of trusted personnel, can both reduce the likelihood of items going missing and provide a small, qualified suspect list if they do. Although access control should be implemented right the way through a hospital building, administrators with an eye on balancing the books should at least prioritise their deployment in areas with high-value equipment, medicine, and information.
IP-based video surveillance solutions are a vital investment for any hospital to make. The increased image quality means that if any incidents occur, hospital security teams can quickly identify the perpetrator and provide law enforcement with high-resolution footage to use in legal proceedings. Further, high-quality CCTV can also protect staff in the event of a bogus lawsuit by providing sharp, clear footage of an alleged incident. Howeve,r for hospitals operating at the limit of their annual budget, it can be a stretch to ‘rip and replace’ an analogue system with an IP one. That’s why hybrid systems – that can integrate existing systems with new IP technology - have gained considerable traction in the healthcare industry, offering a gradual transition to IP, where implementation can be rolled out across financial accounting periods to fit within budget constraints. Equally, for hospitals with an existing IT infrastructure, the transition to IP is even more easily implemented.
There are a number of steps that any hospital can take in order to increase the security of their patients, staff and property that don’t cost the earth
The power of video analytics in the hospital environment cannot be overstated. This is a technology that is effectively capable of providing alerts to hospital security teams to predict and pre-empt criminal activity before it takes place. For example, if a group of youths stays for a suspiciously-long period of time in a hospital car park or outbuilding, it will alert security staff to a potential threat. If a family member visiting a patient is lurking for long periods by a drugs cabinet, it can be quickly investigated. Interestingly, one way that cash-strapped hospital managers can justify this investment is by focusing on the business data that video analytics can provide – the flow of staff, patients, and vehicles –helping to understand, interrogate and optimise the hospital’s processes and overall management.
In short, there are a number of ways that hospitals can invest in security technology at the same time as keeping budgets balanced. The technology can deliver return on investment in a host of different ways; from reducing theft and lowering insurance premiums, right through to avoiding costly law suits and providing valuable business insight into a hospital’s processes. Above all, it protects your people – patients, staff, visitors – at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. /