Finding efficiencies and improving healthcare security

Hospital from outside - healthcare security

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Chris Lennon, Healthcare Business Development at Hanwha Vision America reveals how intelligent video surveillance can enhance healthcare security.

Healthcare security

Like any professional organization in any market, healthcare facilities are not immune to the daily business challenges created by staffing shortages, limited resources, shrinking budgets and rising costs.

Combine these trends with the unique dynamics of medical emergencies, life or death procedures and large amounts of confidential patient data and it’s no surprise that healthcare facilities welcome any help to become more efficient.

This includes video surveillance technology.

Cameras are now commonly installed throughout a healthcare facility to meet a diverse set of security and surveillance needs.

It’s a major shift from only a few years ago, when doctors and staff were hesitant to embrace technology of any type.

Reactions ranged from, “we can’t put cameras in patient rooms” to “there are too many issues with HIPAA compliance and patient privacy.”

That mindset was already beginning to change – slowly – and then COVID came along and accelerated the swing.

Everyone became comfortable with using technology, especially for remote applications and hospitals were no exception.

Hospitals have become savvier in deploying their surveillance technology more effectively, using combinations of camera types in different configurations.

AI and analytics on the rise

It’s not just a matter of installing more cameras. It’s about more cameras with diverse features and capabilities.

Also, how a facility monitors those cameras is critical.

The average 800-bed hospital may have upwards of between 2,000 and 3,000 cameras monitoring everything from lobbies and parking lots to dispensaries and restricted areas. 

With so many feeds, putting a security person in front of a video wall is not practical since an individual is realistically only able to monitor ten to 20 cameras at a time.

Hospitals are now using AI combined with video analytics to help manage their networks of cameras and devices, shifting their healthcare security and surveillance approach from reactive to proactive.

The use of AI is spreading across the healthcare security industry to enhance patient care, improve operational efficiency and even contribute to medical research.

From a healthcare security and surveillance perspective, hospitals are complementing their cameras’ security monitoring performance with enhanced data-gathering capabilities combining intelligent audio/video analytics and AI.

The result is targeted object detection and classification, which can save time for hospital and healthcare security teams by speeding up forensic searches.

When an incident occurs, locating a person of interest can take a matter of minutes, instead of having to sift through hundreds of camera streams for hours.

AI is also playing a larger role in cameras used for license plate recognition, recording vehicle entry and exit and alerting staff to potentially dangerous activities in real-time.

Hospitals have to deal with issues like “dump and run” incidents.

A car may drive by an emergency room entrance in the early morning hours, “dump” off a body that’s the victim of a criminal activity and then speed away.

The hospital needs to know who was driving that car to enhance healthcare security.

With AI-based license plate recognition, they can simply plug in their search attributes – a male in a red shirt and blue pants, between 2am and 2:30 am – and get quick hits on people or objects that match those parameters in only minutes.

It’s more efficient than calling down to the command center with a search request that could take an hour or more without AI.

Hospitals also keep building “watch lists” of people whose previous histories prohibit them from being on hospital grounds.

With video analytics, a video surveillance system is able to compare images captured on video to existing electronic watchlists that include anyone who has previously attacked a healthcare provider.

If a person on a watchlist approaches the front door, the system automatically notifies healthcare security personnel.

Now those individuals are identifiable by their license plates while they’re still in the parking garage, allowing healthcare security teams to intercept them before they enter the facility.

This combination of IP cameras and analytics helps healthcare security professionals get a better handle on access control and monitoring of hallways, entrances and exits, as well as exterior parking lots.

Knowing which doors visitors can use to access and exit a building is important when placing cameras and improving healthcare security.

Cameras’ built-in analytics can be used for people-counting to accurately track the volume of people entering or exiting a building, which helps administrators and healthcare security teams monitor their population on any given day.

Smarter connectivity

There is a growing trend of integrating diverse groups of commonly used network connected devices, known as internet of things (IoT) devices, with video surveillance platforms.

As more connected devices are used for a growing number of patient care applications, especially remote monitoring and other purposes, securing networked IoT devices can be integral for preventing unauthorized access and data breaches.

The increasing use of AI and deep learning algorithms is helping to detect and classify distinct objects (people, vehicles, faces and license plates) while clearly distinguishing them from their environmental surroundings.

These “smart” technologies filter out irrelevant motion triggers to focus only on people, objects and vehicles and generate only the events users need to see for effective forensic searches and enhanced operational efficiency.

They also minimize storage and bandwidth by not tracking and recording every type of object in motion.

Multi-directional and pan, tilt, rotate, zoom (PTRZ) technology is beneficial to hospitals looking to get the most out of their healthcare security spending.

With one device through one data connection, a facility can record several key areas like pharmacies, hallways or lobbies with unique fields of view for each.

Additionally, hospitals are deploying both on-premise and cloud-based solutions, depending on their size, budget and coverage needs.

New technologies, unique applications

Beyond the monitoring and protection of a facility for healthcare security, new technologies are increasingly being combined to create new surveillance solutions for enhancing patient care.

With the integration of IP pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) cameras and virtual health platforms, hospitals can perform 24/7 centralized patient monitoring and conduct remote monitoring and observation of various units for applications including telesitting, virtual nursing and virtual admission, discharge and transfer (ADT).

It’s a welcome alternative to having a physical tech or nurse act as a “sitter” in a room monitoring a high-risk patient prone to falling out of bed, pulling out a PICC line or generally harming themselves.

Hospital staff can remotely check on patients from a central command center at the nurses’ station, keep an eye on various in-room equipment using motorized cameras lenses or view which way the patient’s body is turned.

It’s one more example of moving the patient care process from reactive to proactive and key staff can use their time for higher value activities without getting bogged down with time-intensive, tedious logistics.

Cameras in the operating room help to “audit” surgeries to ensure certain procedures are followed and provide evidence in case of issues like “wrong sight surgeries,” where surgery is performed on the wrong part of a body.

Drug diversion policies are more common in hospitals, especially those with large quantities of pharmaceuticals or other assets that are attractive targets for theft.

Many hospitals use a Pyxis MedStation, mobile pharmacies designed for automated medication dispensing and allocation.

These carts are stocked with the daily medications needed for a floor or area and are only available to authorized users.

However, unauthorized personnel using stolen or forged credentials can unscrew the backs of these carts for easy access to the drugs.

Now with cameras constantly watching, if a pallet of medication is suddenly short by one box, it’s easy to filter a search to specific areas and locate the missing assets.

Beyond safety, care and efficiency, installing the right surveillance infrastructure also adds to a hospital’s competitive advantage.

What medical professional wouldn’t want to work for a facility with a reputation for being forward-thinking and willing to embrace the latest and greatest?

Looking ahead, the potential applications for security cameras in a healthcare setting are limitless, but the one constant will always remain achieving a balance of quality efficiency, patient care and safety.

This article on executive protection was originally published in the January edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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