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3 security technologies that help avoid bloodshed in hospitals

Author: William Pao, published on ASMAG

From time to time, reports on violence in hospitals can be seen on the news. To avoid such bloodshed and tragedy, hospital operators are turning to various advanced technologies, some of which are discussed in this note.

Violence by patients against hospital staff happens occasionally. Long waiting times and lack of hospital beds can make patients or their family edgy. Some of them may resort to violence as a result. According to figures by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the incidence rate of nonfatal workplace violence to healthcare workers was 10.4 per 10,000 workers – an increase from the 2011 rate of 6.4 per 10,000.

And the pandemic has made the situation worse. Here in Taiwan, a 66-year-old man treated for COVID-19 at a local hospital allegedly struck a nurse with his cane and fled, angry about being confined to a designated COVID-19 hospital ward, according to the local Central News Agency.

Attaching greater importance to security

Amid these incidents, hospitals now attach greater importance to staff and visitors’ safety and well-bring. In this regard, security can help. Below are some advanced technologies that can help reduce incidents of patient-induced violence in hospitals.

Body-worn cameras

More and more, hospitals use body-worn cameras as a means to protect staff against patient violence. “People tend to be far less aggressive if they know they are being recorded, and body worn cameras offer an effective support and evidence gathering facility,” said Chris Allcard, Lone Worker Services Director at Reliance Protect. “Filmed evidence can also assist in resolving incidents and complaints by providing a more accurate record of events. It can also identify operational problems and provide documentation for investigations into allegations of professional misconduct.”

Allcard further commented on how body-worn cameras may be used in hospitals: “At the beginning of a shift a staff member simply selects a body-worn camera, which uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader to scan their personal ID card. This links the camera to the user for the duration of their time at work, providing a full audit trail that offers an extra layer of visibility and accountability. After their shift the user simply puts the device in a charging dock, which automatically uploads the footage via an IT network and into the cloud.”

Video analytics

Video analytics can be a key tool ensuring hospital safety. Facial recognition, for example, can detect problematic individuals. “Facial recognition tools can recognize repeat offenders and ensure that security and, if necessary, the police are alerted to their presence at the earliest available opportunity. Reviewing footage afterwards can also help to establish what the trigger points of an incident were,” Allcard said.

Analytics can also include digital fencing and loitering detection. “A reception or billing environment in a hospital can cause a potential security risk, especially if a patient or patient’s family is unhappy. Digital fencing can be put in place in these areas, allowing security to draw an invisible line. If, for example, someone suddenly reaches across the desk in a reception or billing area, their hand has now crossed the digital fence, which would automatically generate an alert for security,” said Kyle Gordon, VP of US Field Sales at Stanley Security.

He added: “Beyond helping to deter or prevent violence, security systems can also help detect unwanted behavior such as loitering. Video surveillance technology allows facilities to draw a digital box around specific areas – such as near certain entry points – and monitor that area for loitering. If a person is loitering in the area for a certain period of time, it could trigger an alert notification.”

At the end of the day, analytics can make hospital security personnel’s job easier and more efficient. “For example, a hospital with 200 cameras deployed isn’t able to view all those at once, so if a video event is identified, such as an individual hitting another individual in a parking lot, the associated video of that incident will pop up on an operator’s screen for further review. Also, the data gathered from a video surveillance system can be used as training tools to improve hospital policies, procedures and even training methods,” said Chris Sessa, Director of Key Accounts at Salient Systems.

Panic buttons

Panic buttons provide immediate alerts to hospital administrators should something go wrong. “Panic buttons often have a non-emergency function, meaning if one side is pressed than it’s a notification of suspicious activity. This is sent to the offsite monitoring center. If both sides of the button are pressed, it typically indicates an emergency. This gives responding authorities real-time insight into the status of a potential crime or emergency, and better situational awareness on a response,” Sessa said.

Integrating panic buttons with other systems, such as video surveillance and access control, can further add to the hospital’s security. “Ideally, a panic button does more than alert security staff. Among other things, it should lock, or unlock some key doors. It should also bring up nearby cameras for control room operators to quickly get visibility on a situation,” said Jermaine Santoya, Industry Marketing Manager at Genetec.

“By adding RTLS (real-time location services) and duress buttons to staff badges,” he added, “hospitals can better protect their personnel from violence by reducing response times. If a staff member feels unsafe or in danger, they simply have to press the duress button on their badge. This sends an immediate notification to security personnel who, because RTLS allows them to see exactly where the staff member is, can quickly and appropriately respond to the alarm.”