Ensuring Patient Privacy, Enhancing Security

New, smarter surveillance technologies are perfect prescription for healthcare settings

Today’s video surveillance camera manufacturers offer models specifically built for the healthcare setting. Vandal-proof cameras withstand rough treatment in an emergency room, high-resolution models can read license plate numbers in the parking lot and better image processing enables clear video views in spite of backlighting or other lighting variables.

Video surveillance systems are proving to more useful than ever in healthcare facilities thanks to new capabilities made possible through enhanced processing, intelligent video analytics and continually evolving network functionality. In addition to providing better security for patients, staff and visitors, video surveillance systems can also improve general operations throughout healthcare facilities even while protecting patients’ privacy.

Intelligent Camera Functions

Video motion detection built into intelligent cameras can alert hospital personnel if patients are mobile in areas where they should be stationary, and it can be used to generate an alarm if identified fixed objects are moved while at the same time ignoring other motion caused by natural elements such as swaying trees or drifting clouds.

In addition, video motion detection can monitor portable equipment and vehicles that should not be left unattended or those that remain stationary for specified time limits, and the built-in technology can trigger alarms when an object is left behind, such as a briefcase or other package that might represent a security threat. All of these motion detection-related capabilities can be deployed to record activities only when motion is triggered. This dramatically reduces bandwidth requirements, allowing more devices to be deployed on a single network without impeding transmission while also requiring less storage for recorded images.

Face detection is another feature driven by intelligent analytics on the camera, and it pairs with face recognition on the recording/processing end of the system chain.

In addition to automatically detecting individuals registered in the system or suspicious persons when they enter a facility, face detection can provide instant access to secured areas by authorized personnel. Applications include maternity wards, areas where medications are stored, operating rooms and emergency treatment areas. Face detection can be used as a standalone trigger mechanism or in conjunction with access control, making it suitable for myriad applications.

Protecting Patient Privacy

Emerging surveillance technology is enabling better patient protection in healthcare settings while maintaining the need for privacy. Cameras can be placed in a specially designed housing that covers the lens at all times unless opened by a patient or nurse to monitor a specific incident or situation. A single PTZ camera can be deployed in rooms with multiple patients and programmed to position itself toward any of the beds.

If a patient or family member temporarily leaves the room, they can request a video recording to protect valuables and other personal items.

New, smarter network cameras also offer a privacy-masking capability. Various areas in an image, such as the door to a patient’s room or a patient’s window viewed from the outside, can be electronically masked to prevent the selected areas from being viewed and/or recorded. This allows video surveillance cameras to be deployed virtually anywhere throughout and around a healthcare facility without infringing on patient privacy.

Surveillance for Business and Education

Video cameras are used throughout hospitals and healthcare facilities for a multitude of non-security tasks, including remote conferencing and in operating rooms for educational purposes. These cameras can also be called upon for use as security cameras on a moment’s notice in the event of an emergency.

Overall, the capabilities of video cameras to improve, secure and streamline today’s healthcare environment are better than ever.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Greg Peratt is director of sales, Video Solutions Integration, at Panasonic.

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