Transforming Healthcare Security
Understanding what situations need to be addressed
- By Pat Scheckel
- Mar 01, 2020
Security is a top priority at healthcare facilities
across the country, but developing and deploying
an effective healthcare security strategy is a
challenging process. Leaders need to work with
multiple departments to understand what situations
need to be addressed and how everyone can work together
to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.
The key to any strong security solution is good communication.
That can be communication between departments, as well
as how information is communicated throughout a facility. That’s
why so many healthcare organizations are deploying mass notification
systems to help share information during security events.
Using Existing Technology to
During an emergency, two substantial challenges are reaching
everyone who needs to receive a message and getting that message
out quickly. A mass notification system helps solve both of
these issues by making it easier to activate urgent messages and
having it reach devices that are already in place throughout many
One of the reasons healthcare organizations are turning to
mass notification systems is because of its ability to integrate with
existing technology. IP phones in rooms, IP speakers in hallways,
desktop computers at nurses’ stations, and digital signage in visitor
areas are just some of the devices that can leveraged for audio
and text alerts throughout a facility.
Depending on how robust the system is, this functionality
could be extended to mobile devices and other pieces of technology.
This same ecosystem can also be used to trigger notifications,
with added integrations to devices like panic buttons.
All of these factors contribute to one of the biggest advantages
of a mass notification system, flexibility. The more ways you
can reach people, the less likely it is that they miss a message,
and the easier you make it to trigger a message, the more quickly
people can begin responding.
This flexibility extends to a healthcare organization’s ability to
plan for any kind of security event their organization is likely to encounter.
Message templates can be built well in advance of an event
and loaded into the system to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
It also gives administrators the opportunity to develop groups
for delivering mass notifications. This means they can choose alerts that will only reach security personnel or specific members
of their staff.
The Mobile Element
Mobile devices can be particularly useful in healthcare environments
when combined with mass notification. Beyond delivering
mass SMS text messages, users with the right permissions can
also trigger notifications right from their phones through an app.
This means they don’t need to get to a desktop computer to activate
an alert, speeding up the notification process.
Mobile notifications can also ask recipients for a response. In
healthcare environments, this can help to understand who is safe
and who needs assistance, as well as assist with providing quick
Because mass notification systems often allow administrators
to develop groups to receive certain notifications, if a hospital
experiences an influx of patients or severe weather causes staffing
issues, mass notifications can help recruit available staff quickly
to let them know they are needed.
Thanks to this communications system, staff members will
not need to wait for direction from a superior but receive the
same message at the same time and move forward with the necessary
actions. Once healthcare professionals are accustomed to the
system, they will also realize its utility in making their jobs easier
and simplifying their responses to not only emergency events but
other situations as well.
Designating Zones for Events
Not every event warrants alerting an entire organization. In some
instances, you may only need to reach your security team, or you
may want to avoid sending critical code blue pages to sensitive
visitor areas. With a mass notification system, administrators can
establish zones so messages only play in select areas and get information
to the people who are both best equipped to respond
or are in most danger.
This could include sending alerts to a specific floor or wing
of a hospital or only sending a message to a doctor’s lounge or
security office. This can help make responses more efficient and
avoid having messages cause undo anxiety by being heard by family
Trigger lockdowns with mass notification. Depending on the
event, a lockdown may need to be initiated. This could be used
keep a dangerous individual in a particular area of a facility or
be used to prevent people from leaving if a baby is taken from the
Using electronic door locks, when a notification is triggered,
it can also cause doors to lock. This can be used as an extra level
of protection for people within a facility by preventing them from
coming into contact with someone that might mean them harm.
IoT Integration. Similar integrations can be made with Internet
of Things devices to trigger alerts using email notifications
and contact closures. For example, many hospitals now connect
their mass notification systems to patient RFID tags. Discovering
a patient has wandered away from a designated area can put the
patient at risk and waste valuable resources.
When patients leave an area, the RFID system triggers an
alert to the mass notification system, which can then relay a message
to hospital staff, and even play a message to overhead speakers
in the area to encourage the patient to remain where they are
or return to their bed. This helps avert potential security issues
before they have a chance to get out of hand.
Remote site communication. Mass notification systems can
also be used to enhance communication and safety at remote
sites. While smaller clinics may not have the same technology
amenities as their hospital counterparts, they can still be connected
to an organization’s mass notification system.
This can help keep everyone in your organization aware of
security events, and allow those at remote sites to ask for additional
assistance should they require it. It can also keep them
updated about severe weather events that might impact their
daily operations through automatic alerts triggered through
monitored CAP feeds.
Managing a response. It is not just about getting the word out
though. Healthcare organizations also need to provide assistance
and assess situations as they unfold, updating their response to
meet the moment. In addition to sending alerts, mass notifications
can launch conference calls and collaboration tools with
specific team members who can manage a response even if they
are not physically in the same room. This can be crucial if a security
director is off-site or if staff need to call in details about a
situation as it is happening.
By bringing the right people together as soon as a notification
is launched, healthcare organizations can get insight into an ongoing
event and determine the best course of action to mitigate
This can be much more effective than manually trying to gather
people in a conference call or web-based collaboration tool,
which can delay a response or cause undue technical difficulties.
In addition, new staff members who are not as familiar with the
emergency management process will not have to navigate new
technology if communication is conducted entirely through the
mass notification system.
More than Just Security
Of course, a mass notification system can be used for more than
just security events. With the ability to schedule messages, healthcare
facilities can also use it for a wide range of tasks. For example,
you can schedule messages that are broadcast throughout a
hospital to signal that visiting hours are over. This helps improve
the ROI on the system and helps to ensure it is working properly.
These every day uses can also serve as discrete tests to ensure
messages are reaching the right devices
making it more likely the system will work as
intended when it is deployed during an emergency
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Security Today.