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News archive - January 2019

Open all hours

Open all hours

Hospitals are, on the whole, public buildings which are open, often round the clock, to a large volume of people, including staff, patients and visitors.

As well as this transient population; many high-value goods such as IT and medical equipment are kept on-site, not to mention the personal possessions of staff and patients.

Add to this the abundance of confidential documents, such as patient notes, which will be stored on the premises, and some extremely-powerful and controlled drugs - and it’s easy to see why security is a key consideration.

A balancing act

The very-latest electronic access control systems are increasingly being specified to enhance safety and security and to enable access only to people with the necessary authority.

Mike Campbell, business development manager at Comelit Group, which has worked with hospital trusts across the UK, said: “Security, right from the perimeter, and door entry systems, must be able to accommodate a growing and changing environment, with hundreds of people milling the halls every day.

Ben Farrar, market development manager at Traka, which has installed access control solutions at Leicester Hospital, The London Clinic, and Addenbrooke’s Hospital among others, added: “Each hospital will require its own independent specification when it comes to access control and this will depend, in part, on the age of the buildings and their existing security portfolio, often purchased at different stages between departments and over many years.

“Aside from the physical systems installed, hospitals must also balance the welcoming feel of the building design, intended for peace and healing, with managing constant visitor traffic, securing multiple buildings and hectic emergency departments, maintaining sensitive areas, and increasingly enforcing drug control, all on a 24/7/365 basis.”

From a patient point of view, access control systems must consider:

  • Visitor control and traffic
  • Hygiene and infection control
  • Patient safety and security
  • Vulnerable patient safety

The latter was highlighted very recently when an elderly patient died in hospital after accessing, and drinking, cleaning fluid.

And the safety of staff is equally important.

Supporting staff

Farrar said: “Any security must consider the diversity in staff positions, for example roles and hours of operation; how temporary and permanent staff require different access rights; and when access rights need to be revoked or revalidated.”

And security advisors are also increasingly being asked to assist in reducing physical attacks on frontline staff.

To this end, body-worn camera technology is becoming a popular choice.

Generally, hospital access control systems in hospitals comprise of three components:

  • A physical barrier to restrict access to a particular area, including doors, turnstiles, speedgates, and car park barriers
  • An identification device, including RFID proximity cards, smart and swipe cards, PIN pads, and biometric (fingerprint, iris scanning etc) systems
  • Door controls and software, which can cover one door, a number of linked doors, or doors across a number of different sites

“Finding the right system is the most-difficult task and in a highly-competitive market, there are many to choose between,” warns Campbell.

“But the ones that have been designed specifically for healthcare environments are more likely to support and understand the complex needs.”

Comelit recently worked with Omagh Hospital to create a bespoke solution where access control interfaces with intercoms located at external building entrances, internal ward entrances, and individual department entrances.

Over 50 systems have been installed across the whole site using the company’s ViP and Simplebus technologies.

A mix of Vandalcom and Ikall Entry panels were also used, calling Icona Video monitors. 

And a range of emergency call points are located in the car park, all centrally managed and provided with a concierge unit facility and offsite monitoring, using Comelit’s C-Bridge to connect to the South Western Area Hospital in Enniskillen.

Old or new

Offering advice to those specifying new systems, Campbell said: “Discuss security as early as possible, even in the initial design and specification process for a facility, whether it be for a new-build or refurbishment programme.

“There is also a need to consider the installation programme. Any security technology must be strategically placed, unobtrusive and not affect the aesthetics of a healthcare facility, which would have been carefully designed to support patient, staff and visitor health and wellbeing.”

While most modern systems can be easily retrofitted into existing facilities; the project success will often depend on connectivity.

Campbell said: “In a new build, naturally the entire system can be installed from scratch using the latest technology. They are generally installed with Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity to enable fast and instant communications across an entire facility; and they have more opportunity to blend in with the surroundings.

“In upgrades to existing systems, security options usually have to rely on a dedicated local area network (LAN,) which often only spans a relatively-small area.”

“It’s really important, therefore, to check at time of commissioning the networks are operational to accommodate security upgrades to avoid delays, especially in bringing doors online to utilise access control.”

Looking to the future, Traka predicts that emerging smart systems will continue to evolve.

“For hospitals, wider-range RFID technology and GPS location of items will significantly benefit healthcare facilities,” Farrar told hdm.

“Biometrics and retina scanning are also now being specified, especially for sensitive areas; and auto-drug vender lockers are helping to manage drug control safely, even to the extent that different healthcare professionals can have controlled access to only areas they need for their own patients.

He concludes: “The ideal futureproof solution is becoming more integrated; where a building management system and single database is controlling all aspect of fire safety and security across a hospital site. 

Look to the future

“The reason this is important is if a staff member leaves, they can be removed in real time from the entire system, leaving no vulnerabilities due to retained credential access.”

Campbell added: “Security is seeing more integration with building control systems through the Internet of Things.

“Intercoms are increasingly operated through WiFi, which is especially beneficial on busy wards where healthcare teams no longer have to return to stations to allow access. 

“And the more integrated; the wider the scope to cover security over complete grounds of a hospital facility.”

Furthermore, like all technology, healthcare access control systems are rapidly evolving to accommodate the increasing reliance on mobile devices. 

“These elements will all work in favour of budget and resource-stretched hospital managers who can benefit from significant cost and efficiency savings as they are no longer reliant on distributing cards as new or replacement options,” said Campbell.

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