EXCLUSIVE: The lifeline for healthcare workers

Healthcare workers

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With the right technology, healthcare organizations can provide better safety and security, says Paul Baratta, Manager, Industry Segment Development, Axis Communications.

Threats in healthcare

Healthcare facilities have long been affected by a number of risks inherent to the profession.

Not only are many buildings publicly accessible but, when coupled with high-stress or emergency situations, it’s easy to see how an escalated incident can happen in a flash.

Unfortunately, it’s all too familiar for healthcare workers – particularly those in critical care units or urgent care centers whose main goal is providing quality healthcare and saving lives – to have to focus their efforts on also protecting themselves and their co-workers.

Many healthcare facilities, such as senior care centers and hospitals remain under-resourced.

Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, several years after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 90% of countries report continued challenges offering continuity of essential health services amid staffing burnout, hiring challenges and lack of funding.

In addition, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that incidents of serious workplace violence in the US are four times more likely in the healthcare industry than other industries.

Healthcare organizations need viable solutions to continue to provide quality medical care while tackling these challenges head-on.

Fortunately, with advancements in technology, healthcare security stakeholders can address safety and security, improve patient care, optimize workflows and adapt to the ebb and flow of risks within public healthcare all at the same time.

The biggest trend in healthcare security right now is expanding applications for new or existing technology and rethinking their potential to streamline workflow and operations.

To accomplish this, it’s imperative to employ solutions that won’t put additional burden on existing staff, existing procedures or a facility’s current technological infrastructure and budget.

Healthcare security stakeholders must adopt a long-term vision when it comes to security and operations – evaluating solutions that can be adaptable, flexible and scalable in the short term as well as into the future.

A place to start

A reasonable place for healthcare providers to begin is by looking at video solutions.

Many healthcare facilities already have some type of video surveillance in place and can start by evaluating the current technology.

Video surveillance can be used for security breaches, crime prevention and incident investigations, but with the advancements of AI and machine learning (ML) along with improved chipset technologies and increased processing power, video solutions can aid the healthcare sector in many new and exciting ways.

With open-platform technology cameras, healthcare providers have the flexibility to implement custom or third-party analytics for a variety of applications, such as object detection, loitering detection, license plate recognition or weapons detection.

If healthcare security wants to follow a visitor in a yellow shirt or see where a specific object came from, for example, video analytics can offer the answer, streamlining the process and saving staff hours of manual searching.

Additionally, video analytics can be used to detect aggressive behaviors, such as sudden movements, running or charging.

To streamline response and allow staff to intervene before tensions arise or a situation escalates, people counting analytics can be incorporated with video cameras to alert emergency room staff when the number of people in a waiting room crosses a particular threshold.

Cameras can be integrated with software or digital fencing analytics designed to track patient movements, detect falls or alert personnel of an attempt to leave a room.

Analytics can alert staff in real-time when an event does occur and be used to document incidents after the fact.

In senior care units, mental health facilities or children’s wards where patients could wander or get lost, healthcare facilities can integrate real-time locating systems (RTLS) with video to track and identify at-risk patients’ movements.

In these applications, patient privacy can be safeguarded in a number of ways.

Cameras can be designed to only show live-feed video and real-time alerts for response; edge-based analytics can dynamically mask people’s faces and bodies in real-time, allowing healthcare personnel to see movements and situations while still protecting a patient’s identity.

Another way healthcare providers can optimize response and operations is incorporating audio and video together.

IP audio integrated with video can be tailored to target specific pain points and give security both eyes and ears to an incident.

Like behavioral analytics, audio analytics can be trained to detect specific behaviors such as raised voices, cries of pain, gunshots or other potential signs of danger.

When integrated with radar detection, for example, healthcare personnel can be alerted if a patient or visitor goes too close to an emergency exit or unauthorized area of a building and automated audio messages can warn transgressors of their offense.

Gaining further visibility

With some technologies and integrations, such as cameras, access control readers or IP audio speakers, there can be multiple solutions for the same problem.

Researching the possibilities of new and existing technologies and speaking with a trusted technology advisor can help healthcare facilities maximize the potential of their installations, boost ROI and save money in the process.

Like video, access control may already be in place at many healthcare facilities.

When integrated with cameras, access control can provide a deeper level of situational awareness and allow stakeholders visibility into incidents and investigations – particularly in sensitive areas such as operating wings and secured pharmaceutical rooms.

Healthcare facilities can also manage access by integrating video and simple door controllers.

With today’s high-resolution video and lighting capabilities, door station integrations can secure restricted areas by recognizing a range of credentials from QR codes to mobile credentials to biometrics, facilitating secure access and touch-free entry.

Network intercoms can be used to control access and act as a force multiplier for healthcare staff, combining video, edge analytics, two-way communication and remote entry into a single device. Staff can see, hear and allow or deny access to doors remotely from a centralized location.

On the perimeter, intercoms can allow healthcare providers to grant patients frictionless access to premises by facilitating direct communication between individuals outside of a secure facility and the healthcare staff within.

Intercoms or network cameras with two-way audio communication capabilities can also be stationed next to patients’ beds, enabling healthcare professionals to check in on and speak to patients even when staff are not physically present.

These capabilities can be beneficial for resource-conscious facilities, particularly at times when staffing levels may be low.

Another tool that can both aid in offering quality care and streamlining operations is remote patient monitoring.

While remote patient monitoring is the process of digitally capturing and exchanging health data from patient to practitioner, it also refers to virtual appointments, at-home health monitoring and in-patient hospital care.

By integrating data from video, audio, analytics and telemetry (or instrument readings) together, medical staff can remotely monitor multiple patients at once for observation, vital signs and more – saving on staffing costs as well as allowing staff to take immediate action if an emergency arises.

While remote patient monitoring has the benefit of potentially saving patients’ lives, wearable video technology has the benefit of potentially protecting staff from harm.

Within healthcare facilities, stakeholders are using and piloting body worn video surveillance for security officers, nurses and other healthcare staff.

In the UK, a pilot study found a reduction of violence on nurses, other clinical staff and users tied to using wearable video solutions.

This technology allows healthcare facilities to document incidents, serve as a deterrent for devious behavior and be used for training purposes with new and existing staff.

When a contradiction exists, staff can feel supported knowing there is evidence of the event.

Though all these individual technologies and integrations can be valuable tools extending the reach of hospital security and medical staff, their greatest value is realized when pulled together on a video management system (VMS) platform.

A VMS allows healthcare security stakeholders to access all their tools and technologies from a single interface.

It also has the powerful benefit of offering up a level of situational awareness that can’t be achieved individually.

Under one platform, security staff can observe and investigate incidents, be alerted in real-time to potential events, lock and unlock doors, communicate with staff and visitors and perform other essential functions remotely. 

1-ISJ- EXCLUSIVE: The lifeline for healthcare workers
Paul Baratta

As healthcare organizations grow, expand and change, technology solutions can position healthcare providers to offer safety, security, optimize workflow and gain situational awareness now while allowing them to adapt to the constantly changing needs of their facilities, staff, visitors and patients.

To do so requires healthcare providers to identify their organization’s needs, evaluate their technologies, develop a plan and regularly revisit and revise those plans with flexibility in mind.

Thoughtful implementation now will drive significant value and a proven return on investment in the future.

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

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