A healthcare environment should be a safe and secure space, where healthcare professionals, patients and visitors can focus on the important business of healing. A solid security plan helps avoid unwelcome disruptions in healthcare facilities of all sizes, from small clinics to large urban hospitals.

But what does a comprehensive approach to security for healthcare facilities look like? This guide to sound precautions can help you find a path to your facility’s security plan.

Starting with the Proper Perimeter

Properties open to the general public are generally more challenging to secure. Establishing a proper perimeter and defining the visitor experience are good first steps. Signs are a simple and inexpensive way to guide visitors to the proper areas for patient drop-off, visitor parking and access to the emergency department.

Requiring visitors to take a ticket when entering a parking area, even when they are not required to pay, establishes a semi-private area in the view of the public. Electronic surveillance can reinforce a security presence, with cameras positioned to offer overall views of the site with sufficient resolution to identify a person if needed.

Using Access Control to Establish Layers of Security

Other than designated public entrances, all exterior doors should be either protected by access control or locked and monitored at all times. Even main public entrances may be locked after a certain hour and remotely unlocked by security.

Access control can establish varying layers of security within your facility.

  • Emergency treatment areas: As an area of higher risk, the emergency department perimeter should include access control at all entries. These systems may be programmed with a department lockdown function.
  • Staff-only areas: Access control can help segregate generally accessible public and patient areas from staff-only areas. It is most frequently applied to such areas as nursing offices, locker rooms and research laboratories.
  • Highly sensitive areas: In such spaces as pharmacies, narcotic drug storage, IT network areas and personal health information storage, access control restricts entry to authorized individuals. Vendors should be accompanied by a staff member at all times. Alternatively, vendors and their equipment must be segregated by a wall and door or a chain-link fence and gate.
  • Infant areas: Infant protection systems provide another level of security through radio-frequency identification tags placed on an infant right after birth. These tags have skin and tamper sensors that sound an alarm if removed or cut. The system can be integrated with facility management so an elevator car will not leave the floor if an infant tag is detected within.

Having a good prescription for security at your healthcare facility yields the proverbial pound of cure. What does your facility’s plan look like? Are there precautions you want to learn more about? Connect with me on LinkedIn to discuss your experience with healthcare facility security.

Shawn Whalen is a senior electrical engineer at Burns & McDonnell with an emphasis on the design of telecommunications and security systems for facilities and critical infrastructure sites.