Healthy Tips For Business

Integrators play key role for hospitals both large and small

Healthcare is a booming industry that is faring better in the present economic climate than most other security markets. What is especially appealing is that it is not a one-size-fits-all market. Regardless of the size or type of the healthcare customer, they all present unique challenges due to the many regulations that govern them.

To successfully help healthcare customers choose a solution, an integrator must be mindful of five important steps.

Know the healthcare environment. Healthcare presents some unique challenges, including 24/7 business hours, protect in place policies -- governing the containment of fumes from hazardous materials -- policies, infection control and securing controlled and dangerous substances.

Regulations and compliance codes read like a bowl of alphabet soup. Among the most important are the National Fire Protection Association, a group with which most integrators are familiar; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is the U.S. federal agency that administers Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program; and the Joint Commission which evaluates and accredits more than 16,000 healthcare organizations and programs. It is the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule.

When talking to a healthcare facility administrator, note the focus on efficiency and workflow, which are keys to controlling costs. Emphasize these characteristics of provided systems. Discuss alarm distribution, wireless access control, and the other products and solutions that provide security but in the least costly and intrusive manner. This latter point cannot be stressed enough. With all the talk about efficiency, enabling patient care still rules as priority No. 1. How the installation will be done is extremely important.

Get involved. Industry associations are an excellent way to keep up to develop relationships and speed on the latest trends. Two organizations that focus on the safety and security of the healthcare industry are the American Society of Healthcare Engineering and the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. Both have local chapters to make it easy to get involved.

Understand how healthcare facilities perceive security. Typically, each facility has some type of integrated security system. However, that system may be limited to traditional areas such as the pharmacy and nursery. Most also will have developed an emergency management plan. Understanding how the facility’s present technology and processes contribute to these plans will help determine where end users fit in. Hot topics include emergency management and lockdown abilities, visitor management and credential strategies.

Don’t ignore smaller facilities. Until recently, security at Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet, N.C., involved locks and keys. Assistant administrator Thomas Roddy, said officials then determined that the center needed greater security.

“The hospital required something that was not too invasive and could be easily installed,” said Kevin Lamonds, system technician with Seven Oaks Doors and Hardware of Oakboro, N.C. “In addition to providing a system that was easy to administrate, we also faced the many installation restrictions one has in medical buildings, including limitations on where you can drill and lay wire.

“We were told the Schlage bright blue Web-enabled security system was created for applications such as ours versus the more costly, complex systems created for large multi-building medical center campuses,” Roddy said.

Bright blue lets users access, monitor and manage their system from any computer running a standard Web browser. The system features a plug-and-play design and an embedded application which eliminates the need for special software or a dedicated PC.

“The system economically and efficiently meets our objectives of providing greater security as well as an audit trail,” Roddy said. “We can now determine who has accessed what offices and when to ensure that only authorized people enter specified doors. Thankfully, we haven’t had to use any of the more advanced system features, such as lockdown, but it’s sure nice to know that they are available. Our doctors and staff appreciate the added convenience of the proximity cards versus lock and key. In fact, some of them report that they feel like they’re ‘with the times’ now.”

Consider the future. Regulations change, requiring adjustments to security and emergency management plans. New technologies also will emerge, providing greater efficiency and reductions in risk liability. There will be a greater convergence between logical and physical security and industry growth will continue, creating more new wings and added renovations.

Today’s healthcare security professionals must be able choose the specific lock they need today, with confidence that it can be upgraded later without ever taking it off the door. They need options to truly customize their security solution, quickly migrate to future needs, provide seamless integration with present software and render better security, now and later, at a lower cost of ownership.

The new Schlage AD Series locks let providers customize the level of security needed at each door with a large selection of credentials and networking options. Although protecting people in their facilities is today’s most important security priority, the locks also protect the provider’s investment. It is easy to add more locks or change credentials, networking options or software without replacing the locks. Upgrades can be as simple as switching one module for another.

Partner with your vendor.More often than not, your vendor will have relationships with the healthcare facility. They should have people who are familiar with healthcare regulations and compliance issues and can educate you on the healthcare environment and trends.

About the Author

Matt Conrad is the director of healthcare markets for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.

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