A Secure Healthcare Prescription

A Secure Healthcare Prescription

Hospitals are improving security, operational efficiencies, and patient safety

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities face unique security and surveillance challenges. These often large, multi-building/multi-level facilities operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round—there is no downtime allowed for their operation.

In most cases, these environments are fairly open with staff members, patients and their families, vendors, emergency and support teams always moving throughout the facility. With a mix of many different common areas including waiting rooms, pharmacies, restaurants, gift shops, parking and many private and restricted areas, healthcare properties require a high level of flexibility and reliability from their security systems.

A Real-time Situational Picture

While hospitals, clinics, laboratories, doctors’ offices and nursing homes may use some physical security technologies such as security guards, access control systems, metal detectors and RFID security tags, only video surveillance offers the real-time situational picture for taking proactive and preventive action, as well as evidential recording for analysis, resolution, possible prosecution and liability purposes.

According to Ryan Mellow, key account manager for Milestone Systems, who is experienced in dealing with healthcare projects, this sector faces many diverse challenges that video technology can resolve. The biggest security concerns are centered around regulation compliance, safety matters, and the protection of people, property and physical assets. Common security problems for healthcare facilities include:

  • Loss of high-value medical equipment and assets; internal or external theft
  • Access, use and theft of drugs and other pharmaceutical items
  • Securing ‘hot labs’ with nuclear medicines used for radiation
  • Workplace, domestic or street violence
  • Patient elopement, accountability
  • Illegal parking
  • Infant abduction
  • Vandalism
  • Liability

“A typical deployment in today’s healthcare environment revolves around a main facility that acts as the centralized point, which may or may not have a security operations center that is manned,” Mellow said. “The system then rolls out to other physical locations, such as outpatient centers, clinics, labs, supply sites and pharmacies.”

Mellow explained that typically, authorized user access is defined in the system to see the live or archived video, which usually is recorded locally at the other sites, but the overall system is managed from the central facility. Increasingly, system administrators are utilizing existing IT infrastructure, running the video management software on virtualized servers and taking advantage of existing data center resources.

“With everything else a hospital needs to deal with, cybersecurity is extremely important in a healthcare setting,” Mellow said. “With data security, privacy issues and HIPAA regulations, the possibility of private health information being hacked can be very damaging both from a reputational standpoint and a financial standpoint.”

It’s critical that any surveillance network today use system-hardening features to help users develop policies that deter network attacks. Dual user authentication, end-to-end video encryption and digital signing plus encryption of exported video all play a role in a good cybersecurity plan.

Open Platform Developments

Developments in security and surveillance solutions based on open platform VMS are helping hospital and healthcare facilities protect people and property, provide situational awareness, and enhance operations. Advantages of an open platform IP video surveillance system include:

  • Seamless integration with other security systems (building management, access control, RFID, retail point-of-sale applications) and a unified point of control for inter-operability
  • The ability to add visual situational awareness and alerts to improve response times in emergency situations
  • Superior information sharing with first responders, such as ambulance, police and fire departments
  • Low total cost of ownership (TCO) and substantial cost savings through the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components and third-party applications
  • Protection against future system obsolescence and extensive “forklift upgrades”
  • Easy and cost-effective expansion as needs grow
  • Ability to add new innovations as they become available

Open architecture platforms make it much easier to integrate with other security or business elements, like access control systems, lighting and perimeter gates and doors. Since many IP network cameras have digital outputs (I/O), the VMS can be used to program cameras to activate switches upon alarm signals to close, lock or open doors, turn lights on or off, set off alarms or other actions.

The benefits of an open platform extend beyond security-related integrations and play a key role in integrations with systems for staff shift monitoring, building control and management systems, traffic management systems, business intelligence analytics and complying with regulations for hygiene, fire and environmental issues. Video monitoring is useful for operational efficiencies in managing deliveries, cleaning services, safe food preparation and staff training.

Video Analytics

Research shows that although nothing is more accurate than a trained human eye, a human observer’s effectiveness degrades quickly after short periods of time and as the number of cameras increase. Software, on the other hand, never tires. Software is always watching, always analyzing and always ready to sound an alarm or send an alert. Some solutions integrate multiple video analytics systems (both server- and camerabased) under a single, easy-to-use interface to correlate alerts from different systems, to reduce false alerts and give security the best intelligence of a potential incident.

Video analytics technology has significantly advanced over the past few years, improving its ability to provide real-time intelligence. Today’s video analytics software can provide alerts of suspicious activity, such as a person abandoning a bag or backpack, signaling a possible bomb threat. Video analytics software can count people or detect if they are moving or grouping too tightly together, an action that might indicate a fight or gang activity. More advanced programs actually learn normal human patterns in a location, such as hallways or waiting areas, and can highlight and log behaviors of individuals who act or move in unusual ways.

Scaling and Interoperability

While IP networking makes it easy to connect cameras and other IP video surveillance components, it does not necessarily mean “interoperability” or “open platform.” “IP camera” simply means the product uses the Internet Protocol (IP) to exchange data. It does not guarantee that two brands of products that are IP-based will “plug and play” and instantly work together.

Many manufacturers of video surveillance hardware (particularly proprietary DVRs and NVRs) encode equipment to only work with their own equipment or software. They lock users into their solutions. Such proprietary solutions can make it difficult to scale a video surveillance system to include offerings like access control, intrusion detection and video analytics from other vendors. They also keep integrators from being able to utilize best-of-breed components at the most competitive price.

Hospitals of all types and sizes stand to see lower total cost of ownership, greater effectiveness and more opportunities for integrations by choosing a genuine open platform, IP-based video surveillance solution.

Milestone Systems, along with many of its integration and development partners, has worked with hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world to deploy effective video solutions. Integrated systems and new ways of thinking about video for both security and non-security uses are helping healthcare organizations provide safe, efficient, and secure healing environments.

Massachusetts General Hospital Integrated Video

With 1,300 cameras recording 24/7 and more than 1,000 investigations to process per year, Massachusetts General Hospital’s security team was previously not able to keep up with the vast amounts of recorded video.

“The number of investigations we were doing was taking huge amounts of time for reviewing video, and that was really a waste of time,” said Bonnie Michelman, MGH executive director of Police, Security and Outside Services and Consultant for Partners Healthcare. “We needed to augment heavily with very good, state-of-the-art technology that allows us to combine our intelligence, labor, policies and procedures, in order to create a better holistic approach to enterprise risk management.”

A unified system was required to balance the video surveillance needs of a busy hospital campus with remote satellite locations while upholding the highest level of security possible, maintaining operational flow and providing customer satisfaction that includes expectations of privacy. Michelman and her team decided on the Milestone XProtect VMS platform. Camera count was increased from 400 to 1,300, and standardized with Axis network cameras connected directly to the IP network.

To deal with the marked increase in video data, MGH’s team chose BriefCam Syndex Pro, a powerful set of analytic tools intended to reduce the time and effort needed to conduct video reviews, post-event video investigation and real-time video monitoring. The BriefCam solution ties in seamlessly with the Milestone video management interface, providing efficient workflow for investigators.

Large Bulgarian Hospital Keeps Safe with Video

Uni Hospital is one of the largest, most modern healthcare facilities in Bulgaria. With more than 20,000 patients a year, security is extremely important for keeping patients, visitors and staff safe, and protecting expensive medical equipment. The video system was an integral part of the whole hospital enterprise right from the beginning.

The security system is used for monitoring open spaces, parking spaces and common areas. Video plays a very important role in controlling and monitoring the quality of service and care for patients. With the integration of biometric identification (fingerprint) into the access control system, access to critical premises such as laboratories and drug stores is controlled. Doctors and nurses have access only to premises that are directly related to their work.

Four Milestone Husky M50 servers are used with XProtect Professional and Milestone Smart Client, combined with thirdparty integrations, including access control, biometrics and fire alarms. The flexibility and openness of the Milestone software has been a major advantage to the project.

Thanks to this innovative system the hospital doesn’t need to invest much in physical security as the reliable surveillance is achieved with fewer human resources. The system’s automated events and alarms minimize the risk of human errors and reduce operating costs significantly. The flexibility of the open platform video software enables the hospital to expand and optimize the system to meet all future needs.

Kansas Community Hospital Searches Fast for Evidence

A busy Community Hospital in Kansas is an example of a successful migration to digital video from an analog system. The hospital’s Environmental Services & Security Director remembers an incident when a car drove up to the emergency room and dropped off an unconscious man with a drug overdose, then took off so as not to get involved.

“Finding in our surveillance the images of the person who dropped him off and the car he was driving only took us five minutes. We knew what time he arrived and went right to that date and time to see the evidence,” he said. “If we’d still had our old analog security system, it would have taken us two-and-a-half hours searching through videotape to get that evidence.”

The director recalls that they shared the footage with the police and after following up they realized that those people were involved in other criminal activities in the area. The XProtect software allows easy export of portions of video, should law enforcement officials request them.

Central Hospital in Finland Trains Challenged Parents

A Central Hospital in Finland was looking for an effective way to help parents with babies and young children who have challenging sleeping and feeding problems. Practice and research has demonstrated that video methods are essential tools for clinical interventions when treating problems in child-parent relationships. Therefore, the authorities decided to use Milestone XProtect video surveillance to treat the troubled families.

“Thanks to the video, we can provide better help to parents with babies and toddlers who often have sleeping and feeding problems,” said the Child Psychiatrist and Clinical Director, Clinic of Child Psychiatry. “The software is an important tool in helping families with problems they cannot solve by themselves. The end result of training with the interactions on video is healthier and happier babies and parents with increased knowledge and peace of mind.”

Nebraska Healthcare Complex Improves Safety

In Nebraska, a leading healthcare institution was looking for an opportunity to improve safety for patients, while also reducing its overhead costs. An operations manager was asked to investigate video monitoring as an option.

“Our goal was to ensure patient safety and to reduce costs,” she said. “We always have a certain population of patients who are confused and agitated; patients who we are not comfortable to leave alone in their rooms. It was previously necessary to staff those rooms for round-the-clock observation. At a time when changing budget priorities meant we needed to reduce our staffing, installing video monitoring cameras at almost every bedside was the best option and helped us a great deal.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Security Today.

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