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Summit explores latest best practices for healthcare security

by Megan Headley

Do hospitals need armed guards? How many code purples are you having? How are you monitoring all of your security camera feeds?

These issues and other best practices for hospital security were explored during the Mid-Atlantic Hospital, Outpatient Facilities and Medical Offices Building Summit held recently at Kaiser’s Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C.

The panel of experts included:

  • Patrick Lewis, CHPA, Director Security and Emergency Management, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare.
  • Stanley Mezewski, Security Director, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, IAHSS Maryland Chapter Leadership.
  • Steve Nibbelink, Healthcare Segment Director, Vector Security Networks; IAHSS Foundation Board of Directors and Past President.

Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

  • According to the ASHE 2018 Hospital Security Survey, 61% of hospitals are increasing their security budgets. 50% of hospitals are making changes due to a change in threat level.
  • When doing a renovation or new construction, get your security professional involved upfront. It’s important to get prevention through environmental design and access control upfront. “It will cost you less in the end,” Lewis says.
  • Mezewski notes that it’s important to ensure senior management knows the magnitude of the security problem. “A couple of years ago, the management didn’t know how many runs we made to a code purple [violent patient]. Being able to show them the numbers has helped me increase my staff.”
  • Environmental design is an effective and low-cost way to thwart threats. For example, Mezewski says, “It doesn’t take a lot of money to put in an extra rosebush. It takes a lot of money to add a guard, camera, etc., when a rosebush would do.” And while public space is great for the community, it also means more observers which can reduce potential threats.
  • “Video is a wonderful tool; it gives us many more eyes and helps create situational awareness,” Mezewski says. However, to be reliable, any technology needs regular upgrades and patches.
  • Mezewski says his medical center has 500 soon to be 600 cameras—but no one security department can watch that many. Instead, they “outsource” small segments of camera input to specific departments. They also use the LiveSafe app to encourage personal reporting of incidents.
  • “I tell staff at orientation that patient satisfaction starts in the parking lot,” Lewis says. That means encouraging staff to park elsewhere, providing good lighting, and considering emergency call boxes.
  • When asked whether they support armed guards, both Lewis and Mezewski replied, “Absolutely not.” Evidence indicates security officers with guns can be a risk in escalation and pose potential for behavioral health patients to de-arm guards.
  • Minimize access to public entrances. “Loading docks are one of the problem areas now,” Lewis says, particularly from contractors who may not have a badge.
  • Metal detectors can be helpful, but if you use them it has to be at all entrances and manned—which becomes expensive. For that reason, “they’re’ good but not that effective,” Lewis says. However, AI-based technology is being tested today to replace metal detectors, Mezewski says.

Reported by Megan Headley, a freelance writer based in Virginia.