IP Video Is The Answer

Nebraska medical center improves safety, cuts costs

The Nebraska Medical Center is the largest healthcare facility in the state, with 624 licensed beds. Administrators wanted to improve the safety of the facility’s at-risk patients who require 24/7 observation, while also reducing staff and overhead requirements.

The Omaha-based medical center has reduced its overhead by eliminating the majority of its one-on-one bedside observation staff. There are a dozen monitoring stations located throughout the center, and each station allows one or two technicians to observe multiple patients simultaneously. In just the first two months of being operational, a new video system installed at the facility has streamlined the process for monitoring patients and has saved NMC thousands of dollars.

Nebraska Medical Center

With nearly 5,000 employees and 1,000 physicians, NMC has numerous departments that run the gamut from pediatrics to oncology to bio-containment. The staff is responsible for patients of all types, including some at-risk patients who need around-theclock monitoring.

Until recently, when a patient required 24/7 observation, the hospital placed a staff member in the room to keep an eye on the patient. This was a standard practice for patients who, for example, were on suicide watch, prone to violent outbursts or in a critical state of health. Because it is typical for the medical center to have two or three dozen patients in such condition on a given day, the one-on-one-watch scenario put a strain on staffing costs.

Recently, the medical center partnered with authorized Milestone partner Sentrixx Security Solutions to deploy 299 IQinVision megapixel indoor day/night vandal IP domes and infrared units, as well as monitoring stations running Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video surveillance software.

Maureen Goltl, an operations manager at NMC, was asked to investigate video monitoring as an option to reduce the facility’s overhead costs and improve safety.

“Our goal was to ensure patient safety and to reduce costs,” Goltl said. “We have always had a population of patients who are confused and agitated—patients who we are not comfortable leaving alone in their rooms. It was necessary to staff those rooms for round-the-clock observation. At a time where we needed to reduce our staffing, installing video monitoring cameras at almost every bedside was the best option and helped a great deal.”

Goltl organized a large planning team, and by the fall—a mere eight months later—the system was deployed and operational.

Partnering for Success

With the planning team weighing its options of possible vendors on this project, it decided to work with Sentrixx, a vendor/partner that had worked with medical facility officials already and had a longstanding relationship. Over the years, Sentrixx, a division of Control Services Inc., had provided building automation solutions, intercoms, Hugs Infant Protection and other electronic security devices to the hospital.

In 2009, Sentrixx installed 13 high-resolution Axis IP cameras in NMC’s adult intensive care unit. These cameras were controlledVMS. They used this as a foundation for planning the new solution they wanted to deploy.

“We had a set of business requirements,” Goltl said. “We wanted fixed cameras. We did not want them to record. And we needed to be able to see a patient at night, in the dark.”

Sentrixx provided a turnkey solution, which handled all the installation of Dell servers, the cameras and the monitoring stations running XProtect.

“We ran every inch of wire,” said Phil Fenton, manager at Sentrixx. “They had a timetable because they were able to trim a significant amount of overhead dollars. We wanted to make sure their installation deadline was met and that it provided a tested and working system.”

The Setup

Sentrixx installed the megapixel indoor day/night vandal IP dome cameras that provide full, real-time video at 30 fps with a 720p resolution. These are unobtrusive units that blend into the hospital’s aesthetic, and they are vandal resistant. Along with each camera, Sentrixx installed an infrared unit, which was placed separately because current IP cameras with built-in infrared capabilities did not offer the high-resolution capabilities required for this deployment. Sentrixx also installed 10 servers and 12 monitoring stations, many of which consisted of Dell all-in-one systems.

To house these stations, Sentrixx commissioned Kiewit Construction to build cabinets that matched the existing environment.

“We created a closed network that allowed each hospital unit to operate separately,” Fenton said.

Each unit houses a maximum of 42 cameras, and because each unit operates separately, there is no need for all the cameras to be available on a single server. Because of this, Fenton determined NMC required only XProtect Enterprise—the NVR software already in use elsewhere in the facility—for the deployment. Had there been a need for all 299 cameras to be available to a single server, Sentrixx would have recommended XProtect Corporate for deployment.

“They already had the XProtect Enterprise license, and it was affordable to load it up on 10 servers,” Fenton said. “What’s really important to the customer about XProtect is the simplicity of its user interface and its reliability.”

In the Field

Sentrixx trained a core group of staff members at the medical center, including Goltl. They quickly learned how to use the software and perform troubleshooting. Those staff members, in turn, have trained more staff.

“It’s pretty easy software to figure out, so we haven’t had any problems,” Goltl said. “As we have new people coming and going, they really just need to sit down for a few minutes to get training.”

Now, NMC has seven units that are regularly staffed for manning the monitoring stations. These include two medicine telemetry units, two surgical units, the solid organs and transplant unit, the neurology unit and the cardiology unit.

There are a dozen monitoring stations, some of which are used on a daily basis while others are used only when there is a need. On average, they monitor about five to six patients per active monitoring station, with up to 30 patients monitored at any given moment. This number fluctuates, and they can use XProtect to quickly activate and deactivate cameras as needed.

“They didn’t need to look at all the cameras all the time,” Fenton said. The staff needs to see a camera feed only if there is a concern about a particular patient’s safety. “That was an important factor. With XProtect, we could take a server for a floor and put 20 cameras on it. Staff members at the monitoring station can just pull up the list of cameras in XProtect and drag over the cameras that they want to see during their shift. In the middle of the night, they can easily add a camera to the monitoring station when they need to, which is important in a hospital setting where patients move around at all hours.”

Discussing the broad set of advanced capabilities, Fenton described what makes the system right for NMC.

“The software can use smart technology to mask out an area and send a signal if the person moved beyond that area, but with the amount of activity in a hospital room, they really needed something that would be as simple to manage as possible,” he said.

“The video is not really treated as a security surveillance application,” Goltl said. “It’s a patient care application.”

The Benefits

NMC officials said they already have experienced benefits with the system. The deployment was fast and easy, and training staff on XProtect software took practically no time.

It is too early for administrators to put a number on how much the system has helped in regard to staffing and reducing the facility’s overall spending, but Goltl said the improvements—and savings—are evident. “I haven’t seen a dollar amount since it is so early, but I know we have already saved ourselves thousands of dollars, and we anticipate recouping the cost of the cameras within seven or eight months.”

Then there are the people being protected—patients and sometimes staff members.

“We recently had a patient who was somewhat aggressive and agitated,” Goltl said. “We placed a person in the room with this patient, but we also decided to keep them on the monitor so the person watching the monitor could tell when the person sitting with that patient needed help. We wanted to make sure they were both safe.”

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

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