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7 Security Lessons from the Emergency Room

Security best practices from the emergency room, health care's front line.

Think securing your office space is challenging? Imagine if your space housed 24/7 trauma, gang violence, deadly injury and unpredictable visitors. Roy Bordes, president and CEO of the security design and engineering firm The Bordes Group, has worked with numerous hospitals. Here are a few of Bordes' best practices from health care's front lines.

  1. Let the right people in.

    You need a way to identify who is authorized to be in the hospital and who isn't. And you need to track them once they come in (and know when they leave). Issue visitor badges and have visitors log in. To control access around the hospital, have a visitor entrance, and ensure that all other entrance points are accessible only by access card. Enforce visiting hours.

  2. Prepare for potentially volatile situations.

    For example, a drunk driver causes a wreck. He kills someone. If the family members of the victim are mingling with the drunk driver's family in the emergency room, that's a combustible situation. If you're managing an ER, having separate spaces available can help.

  3. Protect your employees.

    A hospital is a 24/7 operation. Nurses walk to cars parked in dark, unguarded garages and lots at 2 a.m. You need to add protection in parking lotssurveillance and escorts, good lighting and communication stations. Control the environment.

  4. Defenseless assets.

    People go into hospitals to steal babies. According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, all hospitals that have maternity areas are supposed to have a baby monitoring system. Alarms should go off when babies are moved outside the controlled area, or when the monitoring tag is removed. But, because of hospital overflow, babies often get moved to unsecured areas. You need to anticipate busy cycles and order equipment for overflow areas.

  5. Prevent theft.

    Theft that happens in a typical business environment happens in a hospital too. The best thing to do is eliminate multiple exit points in the hospital, and control egress and access. Asset tracking systems can tag sheets or other items, like narcotics, that you don't want walking out the door. The name of the game is to make it as difficult as possible for people to steal.

  6. Hire armed security staff.

    Most hospitals employ unarmed officers. They need to supplement them with armed police officers in the ER. Some hospitals hire off-duty police who are able to make arrests, remove people with force and return fire (Bordes also notes that the fact they have guns acts a deterrent). You don't want a shoot-out in a hospital, but it happens; be prepared.

  7. Protect patient information.

    Legal teams travel around the country to sue doctors and hospitals for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Try to secure the areas where records are stored. Hospitals often depend on password-protected systems to secure archived data. Some hospitals are looking to transfer that responsibility to the patient. One suggests giving patients a card with a chip that holds encrypted information so that they keep their information with them, and out of the hospital.

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