South Carolina Medical Facility Deploys Morse Watchmans Technology

Palmetto Health Richland medical facility in Columbia, S.C. is known for high quality medical care and an expert clinical staff. The facility’s intelligent design and practices include a sophisticated access control system using the Morse Watchmans KeyWatcher key control and management solution.

The many buildings located on the campus are each equipped with a card-based access control system to control entry and exit activity; employees enter buildings and/or areas using their pre-authorized access cards. Security management has specially programmed master access control card keys that allow entry to all areas secured by the card access system. To safely secure these master access control keys when not in use and to automate the transaction management, the hospital uses the Morse Watchmans KeyWatcher system.

The keys are held in a KeyWatcher cabinet that can only be opened by individuals who have been pre-programmed into the system. To open the cabinet and access a key, the individual enters their authorized code and then presents their card access identification badge to the built-in proximity reader. If the criteria entered matches the information stored in the system database, the key cabinet will unlock and the necessary key can be removed or returned. The computerized system automatically records the access activity of each transaction, including user, date and time of checkout/return.

According to Henry Simons, director of security and volunteer services for Palmetto Health, the system and access procedures help to ensure accountability and the safekeeping and integrity of the master keys.

“The previous manual system was simply too ineffective and labor intensive. Both security and engineering kept and managed keys but neither had full ownership of the entire process,” Simons said. “The KeyWatcher system resolved the problem. Each department installed a KeyWatcher cabinet with automated tracking that allows us to control the keys assigned to our individual departments. We can now hold individuals accountable for a key and thereby lessen the risk of our master system being compromised.”

The hospital custom designed the system to include the two-step entry process as well as allow integration of the KeyWatcher system with its card access system. Any time the KeyWatcher cabinet is accessed, the activity pops up on the access control system screen and anything out of the ordinary is immediately identified. The data from the KeyWatcher is also folded into the reports produced by the card access system to give a complete picture for analysis or follow-up investigation.

“The ability to custom tailor the system to our needs was a very important factor in our decision to implement the KeyWatcher system,” Simons said. “The reports are beneficial from the security standpoint but, overall, the KeyWatcher system has enhanced our safety and security program.”

Palmetto Health Richland, which includes Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Heart Hospital, is designated as one of only four Level 1 Trauma Centers in the State. The facility encompasses four million square feet and is spread out over 80 acres of land. Simons says that with such a large expanse of property, maintenance and construction are ongoing activities that can impact his staff and affect the security of the facility. From his standpoint, the KeyWatcher system provided the ideal solution.

He says, “It’s very easy for us to program the KeyWatcher system to allow temporary access by a construction supervisor for a key to the main utility room or to the HVAC area. We know who has the key, when it was taken and when it was returned. The system even sends us an email alert if it’s not returned on time.”

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