Blog/Focus: Security

Healthcare security: A prescription for strengthening audit trails, streamlining credentials and improving patient experience

By Paul Swan / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
November 13, 2017

In my years in the healthcare industry, the concept of good security has often referred to the specific need for secure doors and door hardware. In the past, we would look at how access is controlled in specific areas on a healthcare campus or within the building and the sensitive areas it contains. These remain critical considerations, however, physical security can now be deployed and managed in more diverse, unique and exciting ways.

Today, we can improve a hospital’s operational efficiencies while elevating the facility’s security.

We can provide interoperability and simplicity across buildings for integrated delivery networks, advance sustainability, and introduce good design concepts that improve the patient experience.

Here are a few examples where strategic deployment of these concepts in new construction and retrofit environments are making a positive difference.

Audit trails

One of the biggest advancements in healthcare security is in the access control locks that provide audit trails. These locks no longer rely on employees to remember keys or access codes. Rather, they use individual key cards or mobile credentials for each employee. These credentials are programed with individual access levels and automatically send a record to a central system every time a card is used.

This can benefit a facility in a number of ways. Consider pharmaceutical distribution within a facility. While we aren’t advocating moving away from a central pharmacy, we can offer a scenario where specific medicines are kept securely within a patient’s room using a cabinet lock that would limit access to authorized individuals and provide a complete audit trail of who accessed it when. We can also take this a step further by enabling “pass-through” cabinets that allow pharmacy staff to dispense medications from the hallway and into a secured cabinet that can later be accessed in the room. This reduces disruptions for patients, and thus, enhances their experience within the healthcare facility.

These types of locks also have the ability to aid in tracking high value products in specialty areas such as operating rooms and interventional suites along with supplies such as syringes. In these scenarios, the ability to secure and track access is critical.

Also consider how a patient’s belongings are stored when they enter a hospital via an ambulance. Traditionally, valuables are put into a plastic bag and kept with the patient – not always a perfect solution. Through locker systems with these types of technologies, we can offer patients a more secure experience.

Each of these examples highlights how major operational changes can be made in security through a simple change toward a cabinet lock with access control and an audit trail. It can simplify processes for nursing staff, improve materials management, and enhance the patient experience.


One of the biggest shifts in technology in the coming years for security will be in credentialing. This will happen across all industries, which means now is the time to future-proof systems for the credentials that may eventually be used. This includes locks and access control components that can use Bluetooth and NFC technologies to support mobile access.

However, the change to new types of credentialing doesn’t need to be done with just the future in mind. Consider how many locks within healthcare facilities still use antiquated systems such as keypad access control. This is a massive burden on facilities management to change codes each time an employee leaves, is problematic for current employees who must continue to remember new codes, or – in the worst case scenario – the code is never changed, which compromises security.

Switching over to an access control system that allows for the central management of users is another simplification of operations for hospital staff. It also streamlines access control expectations across buildings, campuses and entire healthcare systems.

Patient experience

One of the most important aspects of healthcare facility security to think about when specifying for a new site is the patient experience. How is the patient going to interact with the security? What can we do to make their experience the best it can be? Often, this comes down to focusing on good design.

Sound considerations are always an important factor as hospitals tend to be noisy by nature. This means specifying doors and door hardware that are designed and tested rigorously for acoustics while still providing a high level of security.

Aesthetic components are also critical in this equation, meaning that utilizing manufacturers who focus on good design as a core principle is key to success. Consider for a moment that doors and door hardware are often the first thing we touch when interacting with a building. They are also one of the most interacted with parts of a building. And when they don’t work properly, or seem out of place, they are immediately distracting or problematic.

Sustainable design is also an important feature for healthcare facilities when considering Health Product Declarations (HPDs). HPD certified products are tested to ensure that the product does not use or give off any harmful chemicals at any point during the product’s life from conception to replacement.

Each of these considerations can actively improve the patient experience, a key component for hospitals and healthcare providers for federal funding under current healthcare laws.

Consultative approach

As technology evolves and advances security, it’s important for healthcare facilities to keep up and work to create the best operational experience for facility managers, doctors, nurses and patients in a safe and secure environment.

With healthcare networks moving toward standardization through new technologies, it is important for security door and hardware manufacturers to engage with designers and integrators early in the conversation and listen to their needs and facility uses. For healthcare facilities, this means finding the right partners in the process of new design or retrofit, and making sure they understand your facility goals.

Paul Swan is the drector of business development – healthcare for ASSA ABLOY.

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