Medical facilities such as hospitals and out-patient centers require more than the usual access-control and security systems.
Derek Trimble, Johnson Controls Inc.
Its difficult enough for facilities that must remain accessible to the public, such as museums, airports, and city halls, it is particularly challenging to concurrently maintain access and the level of security needed to protect the people, property, and assets contained in that building. It is fair to say that this challenge can be even more strenuous for hospitals and medical centers, where those who are most vulnerable are welcomed, housed, treated, and visited.
|Hospitals and medical centers must provide access to many people, including visitors, patients, medical professionals, and support staff. However, access must be controlled by sophisticated systems to protect patients, patient information, pharmaceuticals, and medical professionals.|
Because hospitals are considered by many to be a community resource, people want to easily enter a facility and come or go at their leisure and through any door.
On the other hand, the public is quick to criticize when a security incident occurs. Hospitals are not the sanctuary they once were considered, said Fred Roll, president and principal consultant with Roll Enterprises Inc., a healthcare security consulting and training firm in Morrison, CO.
Access control defined
Access control has traditionally been one of the most important elements of a hospitals security solution. Ideally, the phrase access control refers to controlling who goes where and when. This includes providing and limiting access to people, places, and things, as well as tracking and monitoring individuals and assets. It can be as simple as locking cabinets or as complex as a formal audit trail for card access into a pharmaceutical dispensary.
According to JCAHO (the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, Oakbrook Terrace, IL), one element of performance by which a hospitals environment of care is measured is that the hospital controls access to and egress from security-sensitive areas, as determined by the hospital.
Roll advises his clients to think of the varying levels of security sensitivity as concentric rings with intensifying access-control efforts as the circles become more focused on security-sensitive areas. For example, the outside ring would start at the property perimeter, the next ring includes access points to the building, and the most concentrated ring involves the most sensitive areas, such as the nursery and pharmaceutical storage.
Employees and visitors
The original access-control device, the key-and-lock system, deters casual unauthorized access attempts but does not provide feedback, through an alarm for example, on these attempts. The advent of electronic access control allows monitoring of unauthorized access attempts. It also introduced a new class of keys that were not keys at all. The earliest key substitutes were insert devices, such as tokens, Holerith cards, and barium ferrite cards. Those were followed by swipe cards and numeric keypads. But insert/swipe cards and their readers are subject to wear and tear and require maintenance.
Unfortunately, some medical facilities are still using code locks as a level of protection, and they often do not follow protocols in changing the codes, said Roll. Most that use electronic access controls are still at the swipe card level of technology and are seriously looking to upgrade to proximity [technology].
Proximity cards use radio frequency (RF) technology. This contact-free solution reduces wear on cards and readers, and is more convenient for the staff.
Although not yet commonplace in hospitals and medical centers today, smart cards represent the state of the art in the evolution of the card. The chips in smart cards are capable of storing large amounts of data, performing calculations for encryption, or supporting an operating system on some of the more advanced cards.
Furthermore, data can be written to or read from smart cards on the fly. Thus a card used for access control could also hold additional information and carry other application-specific data.
The ability to incorporate many individual identifiers onto a single media makes this access control solution easier and more cost effective to administer, and provides a tighter degree of security. For example, hybrid solutions can handle a bar code for inventory control, a photo of the employee for identification, a dollar value for use in …View More