Hospital buildings are usually high-risk environments and without proper precautions, they pose a huge threat to the safety and well-being of the staff and patients. Patients come in regularly with different kinds of infections and illnesses and hospital administration needs to take proper steps to ensure that the doctors and other hospital staff won’t contract them. They are also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of patients who may be vulnerable to a diverse range of threats.
In this article, we explore the different threats to safety and security in hospitals and the steps the administration can take to prevent or mitigate them.
Safety and security within a hospital have different facets to it. They’re related to the different groups of people as well as the systems and processes in these healthcare institutions. Let’s have a look at them.
Patients go to hospitals with a variety of ailments and diseases. They’re very vulnerable inside the hospitals; both from the illnesses they came in with as well as other elements within the hospital.
Keeping the patients safe is of the utmost importance in a hospital. Hospitals should strive to provide high-quality care to their patients. The caretakers — both doctors and nurses — must have a clear picture of the risks the patients face and take steps to mitigate them.
Besides providing medications and monitoring them regularly, patients should be kept safe from the specific risks they may face.
For instance, geriatric patients are at risk of falls, and patients with low immunity are vulnerable to secondary infections.
Visitor safety within hospitals has two different perspectives. Hospitals should protect the visitors from the safety risks within the premises and at the same time ensure that they themselves don’t pose a threat.
Visitors to a hospital will be navigating unfamiliar premises and may be exposed to threats unknown to them. They face the same safety risks as they would while entering any unfamiliar building but also threats specific to the hospital.
For instance, they may slip and fall on slippery falls or get electrocuted by unsafe devices. But they will also be prone to diseases and infections from the hospital.
Visitors may also include bad actors who may pose a threat to the patients or their valuables. Even friends or relatives visiting the patients may bring in new infections to immunocompromised patients.
Most hospitals advise people to not bring kids to the hospital unless they’re sick. But hospitals cannot restrict kids from entering the premises. Parents may bring their babies and young kids to the hospital instead of leaving them at home. Kids may also come up to visit their friends or relatives in the hospital.
But young children are highly prone to infections from the hospitals. While adults may be resistant to minor pathogens, kids may become seriously ill.
Kids may also wander off to restricted areas and hurt themselves. There’s also the risk of children and babies being abducted from hospital premises.
Most modern hospitals store their patient data in the form of digital records. They use electronic medical records or EMRs to make patient data easily accessible and streamline the treatment process. Many hospitals also use digital or online systems to conduct their operations, track patient status, schedule tests and procedures, and all of their operations. But digital operations also leave hospitals vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Over the last couple of years, many healthcare institutions were attacked by ransomware — often locking out patient data and hospital systems — demanding ransom. Ransomware and malware attacks can often bring a hospital to a complete standstill and can put patients at risk. If not managed properly, digital operations can also put hospitals at risk of violating regulations like HIPAA which can result in heavy fines.
Hospitals have to ensure that the food and medication they provide are safe for the patients. They are responsible for delivering the right medication on time to the patients. They also have to ensure that the medications are safe, not over their expiry dates, and producing good outcomes for the patients. Unsafe medications can be disastrous to patient health.
Hospitals also have to ensure that the patients are getting good food during their stay at the hospitals. Irregular meals or poor-quality food can affect patient outcomes. Outdated meals or allergens can even be fatal for the patients.
Everyone in a hospital — including doctors, patients, paramedical staff, cleaning and administrative teams, and visitors — is at risk of infections. Hospitals have patients with a diverse range of illnesses and pathogens coming in every day. These infections may be transmitted through contact, bodily fluids, or other modes.
Without proper sanitation, these pathogens may be present all over a hospital and can make everyone ill.
Hospitals face significant threats of violence against staff and visitors. Aggressive patients can seriously harm and injure doctors and other patients. Hospitals may also get patients who are drunk or under the influence of other substances who may have to be restrained. Even patients in a lot of pain or distraught bystanders can act out and injure care providers in the hospital.
Hospitals often house valuable equipment and devices making them vulnerable to theft. Bad actors may also target hospital pharmacies to obtain drugs and other substances. Without sufficient precautions, hospitals face significant risks of violence and theft within the premises.
Hospitals use a lot of equipment to sustain their operations. This includes everything from the HVAC systems to cold storage and life support systems. Failure of these systems can impact hospitals’ operations significantly. As mentioned earlier, ransomware or malware that knocks out a hospital’s digital systems can bring it to a complete standstill. Even if the cause was hardware or equipment failure, it can have similar results.
The risk is higher when the affected equipment is used to diagnose and treat patients. They can affect the quality of care within the hospital and in the worst case cause patient fatalities.
Here are some measures hospitals can take to improve their safety and security.
CCTV surveillance can improve safety within hospitals to a large extent. The presence of surveillance systems can reduce the risk of bad actors within the premises. It can reduce the risk of theft and violence within hospitals and make everyone more accountable.
CCTV systems can also act as documentation devices. It can keep track of activities within the hospital premises and help improve the quality of care. These systems can — to an extent — mitigate the variety of threats that hospitals face.
When implementing CCTV systems in a hospital make sure you get the complete support of the hospital staff. They shouldn’t feel like all of their actions would be put under the microscope; it can affect their morale and impact their services.
As with CCTV systems, the presence of security guards and patrols can also mitigate the risk of violence or theft within hospital premises. If any disruptive events do happen, security guards can intervene quickly and minimize injuries and property damage.
When deploying security guards, they must be available throughout the premises. There should be systems in place to ensure that the guards are conducting their patrols regularly. For instance, the TargPatrol app can keep track of guards during their patrols using NFC and RFID tags. The app can improve the quality of security services within hospital premises with minimal resources.
Access control systems can significantly reduce the security and safety risks within a healthcare institution. For instance, areas like the ORs, the ICUs, and other sections have to be maintained with the highest standards of hygiene and sterility. Without proper access control, visitors or patients may accidentally enter these areas necessitating cleanup procedures.
By marking different sections of the hospital and using RFID systems, administrators can simplify access control throughout the hospital. With ID cards with RFID chips in them, hospitals can provide seamless access to the staff while restricting access to visitors and patients.
Regular cleanup and maintenance to maintain the hygiene and sterility that a hospital environment demands. Every surface within a hospital environment can provide room for pathogens to grow. Improper maintenance and clean-up practices can even lead to superbugs or antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can be hard to get rid of.
Hospitals need a centralized maintenance and management system to keep track of all cleaning and sanitation processes within the premises. Apps like TargPatrol can help hospitals ensure that the cleanup crews don’t miss any sections or areas. It can also create seamless documentation of the process for future reviews and compliance audits.
To provide quality care and ensure the safety of the patients, all medical equipment and devices must be in proper working order. For this, they have to be inspected and maintained regularly. Defective equipment must be removed from service and replaced on time.
Besides medical devices, hospitals must also inspect safety devices like smoke sensors and fire extinguishers. They must ensure that these devices are in proper working condition and is capable of mitigating the damage from safety threats when deployed.
Hospitals can add this equipment and devices to their routine maintenance and cleanup checklists and use apps like TargPatrol to ensure they’re inspected and tested regularly.
Panic buttons can help get immediate attention in the event of an emergency. Even if patients are in their rooms with no medical personnel in their vicinity, a panic button can ensure that they get immediate medical attention.
Besides panic buttons in the patients’ rooms, hospitals can also provide wireless panic buttons for doctors and other medical professionals. If they come across any medical emergency, they can notify all the medical professionals nearby and get their assistance. Even if they notice any other issue, like a violent patient or theft, hospital staff can take care of it quickly with the help of a panic button.
Panic buttons can significantly improve the quality of care and the safety of patients in the hospital. It can ensure that all events are handled only by qualified personnel.
IDs are important for implementing proper access control within a healthcare institution. It can ensure that no unauthorized personnel is entering the premises and that sensitive areas have restricted access.
While they’re easy to implement and take little resources, they can significantly improve the quality of care and safety within hospital premises.
A robust and skilled IT security team is necessary to make sure that the hospital’s digital systems are up and running without interruptions. Without a skilled team, a hospital’s IT infrastructure will be highly vulnerable and may be targeted with malware or other attacks.
A dedicated IT team can ensure that the hospital’s IT systems are regularly updated and that the security vulnerabilities are patched. They can also ensure that the systems are upgraded before they become obsolete and starts building technical debt.
Hospitals can drastically improve the safety of their patients by implementing a quality control system for all the food and medication they receive. Hospitals have to ensure that their staff checks the allergies of patients before preparing food or medications for them.
They can also ensure that they procure supplies only from accredited vendors who follow high standards of safety and hygiene.
TargPatrol is a mobile and web app designed to simplify security, maintenance, and inspection in organizations and buildings. The app can keep track of maintenance and security personnel and ensure that they’re covering all areas of buildings or campuses.
Organizations can use NFC or RFID chips to track their teams and document their activities. The app also lets users the GPS within their phones to keep track of their activities. Admins can assign schedules and duties to different team members who will in turn get detailed briefs and schedules as well as alerts if they miss any task.
Check out TargPatrol, it’s free, and it will make your hospital safer.