Protecting Patients and Staff with Visitors Management
Hospitals and other healthcare organizations present unique security challenges. Management typically wants to create a welcoming and friendly-looking environment for both visitors and patients. However, it is vital to prevent unwanted individuals from entering the premises, as certain “visitors” may present danger to patients.
For example, an abusive spouse must be kept away from their victim. Estranged relatives could abduct an infant from maternity. Individuals on a criminal watch list should not be allowed beyond the lobby unless they have a documented appointment in the building.
There is also the issue of multiple entrances. Most hospitals have a number of entry points, all of which need to be protected.
The best way to protect a hospital or healthcare facility from unwanted visitors is through the deployment of a visitor management system. This requires all individuals to register at every entry point, giving the organization the opportunity to enter their information into the system, track their entrance and exit from the facility, and check their identity against watch lists.
Watch lists are essential element of visitor management systems. They help to reduce the growing threat of violence in hospitals. In addition to using government watch lists such as sex offender or terrorist, hospitals should consider adding their own custom watch lists. These lists help to identify individuals who may have a history of violence, disgruntled former employees or patients (or relatives of either), and others who should not be allowed into the facility.
In choosing a visitor management system, it is important to configure it so that every entry point is accounted for. Since not every entrance has attendants to log people into the system, unmanned entrances should be controlled and should offer self-service visitor management kiosks that can be operated by visitors, ideally in a locked vestibule environment. The best visitor management systems are extremely quick and simple to use, requiring only a scan of a driver’s license and a few fast clicks on a screen to provide needed information. This may include expected duration of visit, reason for visit, type of visitor and patient being visited, if applicable. There should be policy for every type of visitor, including vendors, volunteers, contractors etc. so that every individual can be properly managed as they request entry onto the premises.
Whether the visitor checks in at a manned desk or a self-service kiosk, every person entering the facility should be issued a temporary badge. Visitors’ badges must be clearly identified as such, along with any other important identifying information. This helps hospital staff recognize at a glance whether someone is in an area of the facility where they do not belong and helps ensure that all visitors have completed the visitor registration process.
Hospital personnel should be trained in visitor protocol so that they know exactly what measures to take in the event of an anomaly. If they see someone without a badge, for example, they should have immediate recourse to alert management or security and should not be expected to handle the situation themselves.
One additional and important benefit of visitor management systems is their ability to provide considerable data about hospital visitors to enable better overall administration of the organization. For example, management will have insight into when the busiest hours of the day are, which can help with staffing. They will be able to see which patients are receiving no visitors at all, enabling them to send patient advocates and volunteers to those individuals, improving care and potentially speeding the healing process.
Despite the considerable need to protect vulnerable patients and staff, hospitals and healthcare facilities do not have to feel like fortresses. By implementing a comprehensive visitor management system, it is possible to maintain a friendly and open environment while still providing the highest standard of care for patients, staff and visitors.
Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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