How to drive physical security and IT convergence in healthcare

Sean Owens headshotThis post is also written by guest author, Sean Owens, PSP, Director of Security Technology & Non-Acute Care at Lee Health. Read more about Sean at the bottom of this page.

In an evolving healthcare landscape, staying on the cutting edge is vital to any hospital’s survival. To thrive as a healthcare facility, it’s more important than ever to make patient and staff safety a top priority and meet the evolving range of threats they face. While this need has often been met using basic security surveillance, new frontiers in video networks can improve patient care and create opportunities to enhance hospital efficiency and productivity. By taking advantage of this technology, it’s easier than ever to transform a hospital into a state-of-the-art healthcare institution.

As security professionals, working cross-functionally with the IT department is essential to enacting a strategic security plan that can take advantage of the latest technology. But bridging the gap to IT isn’t always easy. Working symbiotically with IT to create a surveillance strategy ensures that patients and staff remain safe, while also advancing quality of care through new video analytics technology.

Using video analytics to transform hospitals

Hospitals and healthcare institutions as whole have traditionally used surveillance cameras as devices that simply record footage to be played back later in case of an incident. While this feature of security technology certainly is important, modern network video analytics are capable of so much more. Instead of passive protection, network video analytics offer active protection for hospital staff and patients, identifying potential threats and reporting incidents in real time to the proper personnel to de-escalate disputes.

The technology required to run these systems are now included as in-camera applications; functions like visitor management, incident reporting, mass notifications and other network video capabilities are embedded in advanced cameras, making it more convenient than ever to run these applications. The improvements in camera analytics are applicable to a wide variety of industries, and healthcare is one of the most crucial—the ability to protect staff and patients while ensuring the best care possible is a hallmark of a top-notch healthcare facility.

However, simply installing and using all of this new technology isn’t the answer. It’s critical to think about what you need by developing a strategic security plan. And that begins by working in conjunction with IT and other branches of hospital administration. Unfortunately, many security professionals find it difficult to do just that, but these two areas can thrive when working cohesively, so ensuring cooperation between security and IT is essential to implementing the best possible strategies.

Common mistakes made when thinking about security

Despite their extensive knowledge on physical security, it’s easy for security professionals to fall into a few common traps that can make a healthcare facility fall behind. We’ll start with one of the most prevalent pitfalls: letting the past define the future. This notion is especially dangerous in the healthcare security industry, which is constantly adapting to meet new threats and trends in patient and staff safety. Oftentimes, this means the lack of switching outdated technology, such as analog cameras, to something more modern and capable of meeting the needs of advanced hospitals.

Analog cameras can have value and are useful to hospital staff, but with new video analytics that can create security measures based on cross-line detection, visitor management, facial recognition, incident reporting, mass notifications, and more, it only makes sense to adopt the newest technology to increase security. By failing to implement a strategy for modernizing hospital security, the facility becomes vulnerable, inefficient and unable to keep up with advances in the industry.

Another common trap that security professionals fall into is being unwilling to relinquish control over their systems. This falls in line with the last idea of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This might be a great life motto, but in the security industry where threats are constantly evolving, it’s essential to integrate new technology that can adapt to and handle advanced threats. At times, this means teaming up with other, more experienced groups, such as IT, to create the most efficient system possible. While this can be hard to do, giving control to a larger access system to consolidate and improve ease of access is sometimes a necessary part of the transition into a modern security system.

As security professionals, we must realize we’re not the only ones with expertise—most IT departments have experience integrating complex security systems and may be better suited for some of these aspects. But how exactly can you reach out to IT and create a strong working relationship?

Closing the divide between security and IT

Bridging the gap between security and IT is essential to creating and maintaining a strong security strategy. In many healthcare facilities, the IT department often has a larger budget, better processes and more mastery of technological infrastructure. As a result, it only makes sense for security to work with and build off the established expertise in IT to create an all-encompassing plan.

Everybody involved in healthcare security has the same goal to create a secure and efficient hospital that provides optimum care and safety. Partnering with IT to achieve this goal can produce several key benefits. After all, as security professionals, outlining strategies for future surveillance success is critical to keep pace, so why not involve IT in the process?

A crucial aspect of maintaining an efficient security system is lifecycle management. Cycling out old devices to stay up to date with modern surveillance technology ensures hospitals are keeping pace with the evolving industry. Similarly, creating a structured and organized platform for easy access and adaptation for the future is equally important to building a lasting security system.

Building on the systems we establish is essential for long-run success; making sure updated technology is easy to install and simple to run are priorities for security management. These goals may seem lofty for the security department on their own, which means reaching out and building relationships with IT is paramount to success, both in the short term and the long run.

Strategies to work with IT in order to exceed security goals

Okay, so if working with IT is so crucial to making a strong security system, how do we do it?

By using a few simple strategies, we can achieve physical security and IT convergence quickly and painlessly.

As noted earlier, IT has the system mastery and hardware knowledge to take our security strategies to the next level. When IT is better off, security is too, so advocating on behalf of IT for increased budgeting and hardware can make everyone happier. The rising tide raises all boats, and by partnering with IT to increase their budget, physical security can also benefit. The increased funding can be used to design new coverage strategies, implement new hardware to modernize the healthcare facility and broaden the reach of both departments.

Building off this, consider submitting budget proposals for security with the budget for IT, or even make the security budget a part of the IT budget. By making security hardware designs and other systems part of the IT budget, you can cement the relationship between the two departments and potentially receive more funding for security technology. More funding means better technology, which can lead to more secure hospitals when implemented correctly, so ensure you’re maximizing the facility’s investment in security. Furthermore, this strategy will strengthen the relationship with IT even more, and collaboration will become easier as the two departments collaborate.

Converging physical security and IT

Partnering with IT increases efficiency, budget and scalability in healthcare security projects. Overcoming the differences between physical security and IT may seem daunting at first, but the long-term impact it will have on healthcare security far outweighs any of the challenges or obstacles that each department has individually. By working symbiotically, security and IT can bring hospital safety into the 21st century and beyond, ensuring patient and staff safety and enhancing operations for years to come.

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Sean Owens, PSP, ACP has held multiple positions in the retail loss prevention/assets protection field, aiding Target and later Macy’s in the transition from analog to digital surveillance technology. As the Corporate Loss Prevention Analyst at Chico’s FAS, Sean helped to implement Security technology from the ground up. Working in conjunction with a dynamic team he was able to craft an industry leading shrink and liability reduction program worldwide.

Sean then transitioned to Healthcare Security, joining Lee Health as their Security Project Manager and was recently promoted to the position of Director of Security Technology & Non-Acute care. Lee Health under the leadership of System Director of Security David LaRose MS, CHPA, CPP and with the assistance of Sean continues to remain on the cutting edge of physical security technology to provide for the safest environment possible for their patients and employees alike.