5 Tips For Improving Hospital Security

The healthcare industry faces unique challenges every day. They’re face-to-face with the worst of COVID and are under constant threat of cyberattacks. The last thing that nurses, doctors, technicians, patients, administration, and other regulars in a hospital setting need is to also be under threat of a physical crime.

A hospital visit isn’t always a happy one. It can be a moment of high stress for some. Mental illness and addiction can play a big part in this, but so can extreme grief, fear, anger, and frustration. Keep your healthcare workers, patients, visitors, and other staff as safe as you can, using these five tips for improving hospital security.

Provide Cybersecurity Training to All Employees

Between 2016 and 2021, the frequency of ransomware attacks in hospitals and healthcare networks saw a 100% increase. Ransomware exposed the private health information of more than 40 million patients. More than 8% of those attacks disrupted operations for over two weeks.

At a bare minimum, these disruptions took healthcare systems offline. Around 10% of the issues involved canceled appointments, and almost 5% re-routed ambulances. If patient data was exposed, it violates HIPAA compliance regulations, which can be incredibly costly. None of it benefits your hospital, and the best security measure to prevent breaches and ransomware is through cybersecurity education and training.

Every hospital employee and contractor should undergo training regarding cybersecurity. Start by setting a protocol that all employees must follow. There cannot be any exceptions. When a member of your staff gets up to use the bathroom, they must log out and shut off their screen. If anything is printed, it must be kept secure and under lock and key. Cloud storage on a secure network is better, and there must be measures to prevent unauthorized access.

Make sure all staff use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication when logging into the system. Passwords need to be changed regularly. Have policies written out with clear instructions on what to do if problems arise. As many cyberattacks originate with email, make sure it’s the protocol to never open an email attachment or click a link in an email without first verifying it is legitimate.

Too many breaches start with an employee believing an email came in from a supervisor and clicking the attachment. Make it a habit to verify an email is legitimate first. It’s better to take the time to call and ask than to risk a breach.

Create Security Protocol and Evaluate Emergency Preparedness

With cybersecurity training completed, it’s time to look at on-site emergencies and security. Not every attack on a hospital will occur online. Back in October, a man entered Dallas Methodist Hospital and assaulted his girlfriend, and shot two healthcare workers. That’s just one example of the on-site attacks that are happening in U.S. hospitals.

Every day, hospital staff face violent attacks. In February 2023, an RN in an NYC hospital was assaulted by a patient with mental health issues and left with severe facial injuries. A Vermont nurse opted to return to work after a patient attacked her during her eighth month of pregnancy. While her unborn fetus was okay, the traumatic experience stuck with her. Estimates are that every hour two nurses are assaulted at work.

You need to have a protocol in place to prevent workplace incidents like these. While you have to adhere to patient privacy rules, two-way radios for staff to quickly get help are important. In-building coverage is essential to ensure radios work fluidly in every corner of a building.

Every floor should have security guards who walk the hallways monitoring for issues. If yelling or raised voices are detected, the security guard can ask if help is needed and address problems if the situation is getting out of control.

Have administration and security teams work together to make sure emergency preparations are in place and effective. Make sure all staff have the tools they need to remain safe.

Heighten Security and Surveillance

As hospitals are often constructed with a lot of brick, stone, concrete, and metal beams, cell phone coverage can be spotty. You need to improve in-building coverage to ensure connectivity is always there if first responders are needed or your doctors, nurses, administrators, and other employees need to get lockdown protocol into place.

You also want to make sure all departments have access to two-way radios if there is a lockdown or emergency. If your staff is unable to communicate during an emergency, it can worsen issues and make it harder to engage in teamwork that leads to a quick resolution.

Enable Access Control Technology to Limit Access to Restricted Areas

Access Control technology is important when it comes to restricting access to certain areas. There is no reason that patients should be able to access rooms or cabinets where the medications are stored. This should be carefully monitored with employee badges and a facial recognition system.

When employees come to work, they should have a badge that can be scanned through an access control point. Facial recognition is a good way to keep bad players out of the hospital. Have a list of people who are not allowed, such as former staff, and make sure the system denies them access unless there is a legitimate reason for security to escort them in.

You can’t prevent access to every area of the hospital, but visitors and patients could be directed to the main elevators and automatic doors. Have a security guard waiting just inside those entry points to ask questions as to why someone is there and verify they have a valid reason for entering that area of the hospital.

Establish Secure Public Areas and Entry Points

Cameras are important when it comes to securing a hospital’s elevators, stairways, and garage levels. Don’t leave any area unmonitored. Have security teams that monitor the cameras and advise on-foot security to any potential issues. Two-way radios are the best tool for communications that are quick, crystal clear, and effective.

Your hospital has to have public areas and waiting rooms, but they can be secured. Have cameras set up for surveillance and make sure staff are monitoring the activities in the waiting room. You can often identify problems before they arise by reading people’s body language.

Use License Plate Recognition In Garages and Parking Areas

Do you have a disgruntled worker who was unhappy after being fired? Are you treating the leader of a gang and need to worry about rival gang members coming in for revenge or retribution? Victims of domestic assault may still be angry and looking to take out that anger on the victim.

Install license plate recognition to alert you if that worker’s car is seen entering a parking lot or garage. Security can intercept that person before they gain entry and prevent issues before they have a chance to escalate.

Saving Money Is Good, But Not If There’s an Ultimate Cost

Everyone wants to save money, but you have to focus on quality over cost. You do need to have a budget in mind, but security in your healthcare setting is vital. PMC is an expert in addressing hospital security using a four-step process: Detect, Analyze, Communicate, and Respond.

Talk to our security experts about the technology that you need to detect and analyze potential threats, set up radio alerts, and establish a solid Access Control plan to protect your workers, patients, and visitors. Contact PMC to discuss your current security measures and what you feel could be improved.