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Access Control Solutions for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Key aspects and common available options for hospital access control systems.

11 min reading time

Hospital Access Control

Updated on December 01, 2022

Written by Bernhard Mehl

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The Benefits of Access Control for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities #

In terms of the amount of sensitive data medical facilities work with, hospital security is subject to strict regulatory compliance standards, specialized security staff training, clear policies and procedures, and installation of functional access control equipment which must meet the needs of patients and medical staff and observe the values of life and health characteristic to hospital work.

Data Security #

Since hospitals deal with protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) their security systems must guard both types of data at all costs. Think of situations when a hospital data breach hits the headlines—it generates a huge hype among patients who are naturally concerned about what happened to their medical records, patient histories, and payment information. Therefore, people in charge of protecting sensitive medical information have an important task of keeping due care to meet all data regulatory requirements. It’s an almost a “no-choice” scenario as hospital security is not something that can be taken lightly with a great freedom of how to implement access control measures.

‍Patient safety and security is of utmost importance for the hospital reputation

Physical Security #

However, some aspects of hospital security are more flexible than others, and this is where most mistakes are made. For instance, in order to give as much attention to protecting sensitive personal data, hospitals fail on giving due attention to physical security, such as electronic medical equipment, dangerous medicine, or visitor access control levels. Consequently, security systems at medical facilities must take physical security as a priority, one that must be given as much attention to as data protection.

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Security Policies and Procedures #

Due to new technologies, hospital security standards can be changed abruptly. The implemented security systems must follow suit as soon as possible. So, each hospital must design and implement comprehensive policies and procedures which include clear guidelines about access control levels, segregating access control for visitors, staff, patients, and medical staff with specific access control authorizations.

Hospital security policies should explicitly describe what each person is set to do and how defining role-based access control and making crystally clear about the authorizations of everyone that gets into the physical area of a hospital. When there is an internal security framework, it’s easier to adapt to technological novelties and regulatory changes.

Hospital Security Staff Training #

Security personnel employed in a hospital must get appropriate training to be able to perform duties with success. The job of a hospital security guard also includes continuous on-the-job education, as well as the ability to deal with people with tact and sensitivity. Therefore, security staff should have their hands free from too many technical security aspects. Instead, they should be able to focus on people and leave manual work to advanced access control technologies.

Available Security and Access Control Options

Despite the need for strong security systems and abiding by the law, hospitals still have some leeway about how they handle access control. After all, many medical facilities have different wards, patient units, and physical layouts, so, they must invest in an individually designed hospital security system. There are a number of access control options available to health care, which, as a general rule, depend on the hospital specialization, architecture, and, of course - budget.

Some hospitals still rely heavily on manual security checks by staff, placing a lot into the hands of the security team members, while implementing physical barriers to the outside world that are placed on multiple touchpoints. For instance, a member of staff checks the visitor’s ID and buzzes him or her in manually. Visitor’s data must be entered into a computer log manually. In addition, physical barriers may be connected to standalone access control units distributed across the hospital and not provide the option to monitor them simultaneously. However, these options are increasingly fading into the past as hospital security systems now rely on advanced electronic access control solutions, such as:

Electromagnetic doors with swipe card access #

Staff, visitors, and patients get access cards that allow movement around the hospital where the relevant card is granted access. In this way, it’s easier to control who gets where only by programming the card and linking it to a person’s identity. However, there are certain risks because whoever owns the card, for instance, by “borrowing” it can pass the associated barrier. Yes, access cards are versatile and cheap, so hospitals use them a lot.

Keypad readers with passcodes #

This security option enables entry by typing a code into a reader. Readers can be standalone or integrated into an access control system. Typing a passcode delivers a different risk than cards. Users must share it knowingly in order to be used against the rules, but it can be shared an unlimited number of times, so there is no way to identify who made the unauthorized entry - it can be anyone.

Biometric access control #

Certain hospital sections must adhere to strict access control rules. For example, medical research labs or surgery rooms deal with highly sensitive values, and people allowed to get in must be clearly identified. Therefore, hospitals deploy biometrics, using fingerprint or iris readers to allow entry into the restricted area. Biometric access control, though, is more expensive, and can pose risks in emergencies, such as a fire occurrence, and the authorized person is not present to provide access.

‍Medical research labs deal with sensitive data and must be strictly protected

Combined/multifactor security systems #

Multifactor access control systems combine several of the above mentioned technologies. A person must place the fingerprint on the reader but also type a code, for example. Naturally, such systems are most expensive and can complicate the people flow around the hospital by taking more time.

Cloud access control systems #

Cloud-based access control systems for hospitals can include various components for granting access, many of which are described above. The integrative component of cloud access for hospital security is the capability of using a consolidated admin panel for all access points, storing the data into the cloud without burdening the hospital on-site system, and the possibility to integrate various access control options into an electronic platform that provides precise reporting insights by following what happens in real-time around the medical facility.

Modern cloud-based access control applies cabling and/or wireless technologies, bringing together multiple touchpoints without the need for heavy staff reliance or physical barriers. For instance, staff can use passcodes received from a smartphone app which they must type in to get access or use the smartphone’s NFC capability. On the other hand, visitors can get access cards but also use smartphone codes. Such an option is highly secure, as unique codes can be related to a single entry, as well as monitored from the central dashboard. Cloud hospital security is easy-to-install, versatile, and very secure.

Ideal Security Arrangement for Healthcare Facilities #

As a consequence of the dynamic and ‘need-to-access’ based environment, hospital and healthcare facility security is best addressed with electronic access control systems. Enhancing safety in hospitals and nursing homes to enable access only to authorized people, keeping sensitive records safe, as well as strictly controlled use of equipment can be performed from web-based software or from mobile apps.

‍Keeping proper track of blood samples is extremely important in hospital environments

Electronic access systems are convenient for overseeing hospital and healthcare security on a late number of distributed locations. Managing the role-based security and overseeing several hospitals across the state can be done from a smartphone. This makes the job of managers simple and frees staff time from unnecessary reporting that can be dedicated to critical hospital care.

Hospital security systems based on electronic access control help physical security needs. They enable printing photographic ID access cards for permanent authorized staff and temporary card passes for visitors and contractors. Access cards for hospitals are programmable to grant entry only through specific magnetic lock doors and turnstiles; this includes vehicle access at parking lots. Door controllers linked to these cards can be adjusted to allow only visitors with cards, as well as to require biometric authentication, such as fingerprint identification.

The scalability of the electronic access systems enables unique solutions for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Depending on the size of the facility, it can include standalone readers for multiple locations or one central control point for multiple devices connected in a network. Hospitals are usually in need of modern software solutions; the ideal solution executed with electronic access control can be integrated into the rest of the hospital operations to round up the operations circle.

Conclusion #

Each hospital and healthcare security model needs to be adapted to the unique needs of the facility. The best way to do that is to run a thorough risk assessment and determine the level of security you require. The assessment outcome will influence the decision on how to choose the ideal hospital security design.

During this process, healthcare professionals should keep in mind the industry standards mandated by accredited standardization authorities, as well as country-specific and international codes of practice. In contrast to the typical security concerns of business professionals, hospital security systems must be able to guard against specific issues, such as protection of sensitive areas, record keeping and tracking, theft prevention, misuse of expensive medical equipment, and staff and patient protection.

Hospitals are high-risk environments, even if they don’t seem like that, even more, because people entrust hospitals with their lives and expect top safety and security response. Loss or misuse of vital patient records is not only an administrative concern but also a factor that impacts the hospital's security integrity. As much as they want to be physically safe, patients like to have their sensitive data stored securely. This is why the hospital’s primary concern should be to correctly track and monitor the patient behavior and data submissions from the moment of front-desk check-in to the final dismissal.

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.

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