Keeping your healthcare facility safe

By Fawn Staerkel / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
January 29, 2020

Every day, healthcare facility managers perform a balancing act between safety, comfort and efficiency. Patients need a comfortable place to heal, staff need an efficient work environment, and both require a safe space to achieve these outcomes. Budget restraints and making do with existing solutions shouldn’t get in the way of these priorities. Fortunately, there are steps healthcare facility managers can take to enhance safety while also creating a smarter, comfortable, more efficient environment.

Technology plays a critical role in safeguarding healthcare facilities. Whether it is an access control system regulating entry into medicine rooms, fire alarms alerting everyone to an emergency or cameras and sensors monitoring activity on each unit, technology is always at work keeping patients, staff and hospital visitors safe. But what many healthcare facility managers don’t realize is that each individual technology can be even more effective and better utilized when connected with other disparate building systems such as security, fire and life-safety systems, HVAC or lighting. 

By connecting security with fire and life-safety systems, healthcare facility managers can help improve safety and minimize harm during emergency situations. For example, connecting fire alarms to mass notification systems enables notifications to be sent to emergency personnel as soon as the alarm sounds, resulting in faster response time and minimized damage.

This integration also allows the alarm and notification systems to work in conjunction to send customized intercom messages to occupants to communicate information such as what the emergency is, the safest exit route and any precautions they should take as they navigate away from situation at hand. Additionally, integrating lighting with video surveillance and sensors allows for a clearer look at any activity being detected.

When motion is detected on camera, the hallway, room or external entry point being monitored can light up providing hospital security personnel the information needed to make an informed decision on next steps. This can be particularly useful in identifying aggressive behavior and taking action before a problem occurs. 

Technology integrations that improve safety and security provide peace of mind for patients to focus getting better in a comfortable environment. And while connecting building systems with security technology cannot guarantee the prevention of every life safety threat, it is an important step for facility managers to take to ensure a safer healthcare environment for patients and staff. 

Establish an emergency preparedness plan

While connecting security technology with building technology is at the forefront of establishing a safer healthcare environment, so is having a proper emergency preparedness plan in place. For example, if a hazardous chemical reaction occurs and a hospital needs to evacuate, doctors and nurses need to have a plan for evacuating patients who cannot independently move on their own. Without an emergency preparedness plan, these evacuations could take significantly longer and potentially amplify the emergency at hand. 

By establishing a proper emergency preparedness plan, healthcare facility managers can help reduce the impact of disasters or emergency events and potentially aid in avoiding the danger all together. But without a strategy for communicating the plan to staff and patients, the plan is not effective.

To ensure it can be implemented in the event of an emergency, healthcare facility managers should certify that all staff members have been educated on the plan and understand how to use the technologies necessary to implement the plan. Additionally, facility managers should ensure patients have access to and a clear understanding of the plan through signs and posters as well as through word of mouth from educated staff members. 

Leverage alternative funding methods 

The final step in creating a safer healthcare environment is securing proper funding. While this can be a source of stress for many healthcare facility managers, funding should never get in the way of a safe and comfortable healthcare environment. Fortunately, through funding methods such as Buildings-as-a-Service (BaaS), healthcare facility managers can transfer the financial responsibility onto a third-party so they can focus on which infrastructure and life-safety technology to implement to better protect their healthcare facility. 

BaaS not only eases the upfront financial costs for healthcare facility managers, but also allows them to focus on their main responsibilities as a facility manager and provide a safe, comfortable environment for patients and staff. 

Empowering healthcare facilities to enable safer patient environments 

When patients and staff feel safe in their environment, patients can focus on getting better and doctors and nurses can focus on healing patients. By taking these steps to connect security, fire and life-safety systems and establish a proper emergency preparedness plan, healthcare facility managers can be confident that they are providing a safe, comfortable facility for their occupants and doing their role to power the facility’s mission. 

Fawn Staerkel is the Director of Healthcare at Johnson Controls.  



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