A True Security Blanket
The new generation of electronic security systems is designed for pediatrics
- By Steven Elder
- Jun 01, 2009
Anti-abduction systems are now a common feature at birthing
units and obstetric departments in hospitals nationwide. Over
the last decade, facilities have opted to safeguard newborns
with this specialized technology that provides protection to
In fact, it's become so common that mothers-to-be and
their families now look for this technology when choosing a
Influenced by the trend toward individual patient protection in
the obstetric department, pediatric departments have been
adopting similar technology.
Unfortunately, these systems have been inappropriately
designed around the needs of obstetric departments, which are
substantially different from pediatric departments, both in
terms of the threat they are trying to defend against and the
nature of their patient population.
Pediatrics Face More Risks
In the world of obstetrics, the security
threat facing patients is singular and easily
defined—abduction by a stranger.
Since the danger is almost always external,
building defenses against this threat
is a straightforward step.
Things aren't quite so clear for pediatrics.
The risks facing pediatric
patients are multiple and vary considerably
Patients up to six months of age face
the same risk of stranger abduction as
newborns in the obstetrics department.
According to the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, 14 percent
of the 126 infant abductions from
hospitals between 1983 and March 2009
occurred in the pediatric department.
However, the NCMEC only records
statistics on infant abduction by a stranger.
This excludes children over six months of
age and all family-related incidents.
There is no organization that specifically
tracks abductions of older children
from hospitals, whether by a family
member or a stranger. However, the Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention, an arm of the Department of
Justice, estimates that 17,000 kidnappings
of individuals under 18 were reported to
police in 2006. In half of these cases, the
perpetrator was a family member. For children
under 12, a family member was
involved 70 percent of the time.
It is impossible to say how many of
these crimes occurred in hospitals, but
these numbers are enough to convince
most hospitals that the threat is real.
The different security risks faced by pediatric
departments are a reflection of the
diverse patient population. This is another
factor that makes infant protection
technology an awkward fit for pediatrics.
The most obvious difference is in the
range of patient ages. Obstetric departments
deal only with newborns. A pediatric
patient also could be a newborn, an
18 year old or any age in between. Infant
protection systems are not designed to fit
these older patients, who can easily pull
them off. With most systems, this could
lead to nuisance alarms, since they detect
any attempt to tamper with the tag.
Another factor that sets pediatrics
apart from obstetrics is the fact that these
patients are sick. Pediatric patients may
need to be transported frequently to other
parts of the hospital for medical procedures.
This poses two security problems:
They have to pass outside the safe area,
and for many medical procedures, the
electronic tag must be removed.
A more Flexible Solution
These factors have led to the development
of a system designed specifically for protecting
pediatric patients: the Pedz system
from Stanley Healthcare Solutions. After
consulting with users of its Hugs infant
protection system, Stanley built the Pedz
system to give hospitals the flexibility
they need for a pediatric application.
"It was really pressure from hospitals
that pushed the development of this product,"
said Kevin Smith, product manager
for patient security at Stanley Healthcare
Solutions. "We just knew that we could
build something better for pediatric users."
The Pedz system works very much
like its sister product, the Hugs system.
Every patient requiring protection wears
an RFID tag on the wrist or ankle. Exit points from the pediatric department are
equipped with door monitor devices that
emit a low frequency field around the
exit. When a protected patient approaches
an exit, the tag detects this field and
transmits its unique ID number and the
exit location to the system.
The band is held in place by a clamp,
which allows the curious young patient to
safely tug on the tag or twist it without
causing an alarm. Yet, any malicious
attempt to detach the band or cut through
it will immediately result in an alarm.
A special removal key enables staff
members to remove a patient's tag for a
medical procedure. When the patient
returns, the tag is reattached with the
same band. The transport is initiated in
the system software, where the nurse
informs the system that the tag is being
removed from the patient temporarily.
Afterward, the system automatically
resumes monitoring the child.
The system also moves away from the
"one-size-fits-all" model of infant protection
and acknowledges that each
patient has different requirements.
Depending on the age and risk profile of
the patient, the facility can choose to
allow the patient to travel outside the
department unescorted. This permission
can be restricted to specific exits and
times of the day, with automatic notification
if the patient doesn't return.
The system makes it easier to keep
tabs on the flow of patients in the department.
The software records exactly when
a patient left, which staff member authorized
the departure and when they
returned. Users can add their own notes
to record custom information. This feature
has proven so useful that early
adopters of the system are actually using
it as their main patient census tool.
A Common Platform
From an integration point of view, the
Pedz system also is an easier fit than
earlier electronic banding solutions. It
shares a common platform with the
Hugs system and Stanley Healthcare
Solutions' new patient protection system,
which helps hospitals supervise
Door monitors, receivers and other
network devices all use Echelon Corp.'s
LonWorks protocol, a widely used network
technology for mission-critical
applications. The devices all are connected
to a single server. The server supports
the various applications, feeding data to
multiple client computers running specific
application software. Each department
sees only the client application designed
for its clinical needs.
Adding a new application involves
simply incorporating devices and tags and
installing client applications on departmental
computers. Devices also can be
shared between different applications—a
practical option for smaller hospitals,
where obstetrics and pediatrics are combined
or adjacent to each other.
For larger facilities where departments
are spread apart, network devices
can be connected to the server PC via
a LonWorks-to-Ethernet device that
piggybacks on an existing LAN, saving
time and money on
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Security Today.