5 Current Threats to Hospital Security

By Lowers & Associates,

Treating patients is far from the only concern faced by hospitals today. To protect the safety of patients, visitors, and staff, hospitals must now take extra efforts to anticipate and prepare for security threats.

Hospitals are vulnerable to crime and violence from patients, visitors, and occasionally their own staff members. Therefore, security systems in hospitals must include proactive measures to create and reinforce effective security protocols geared towards accountability, readiness, and responsiveness.

The first step to designing an effective security system is understanding the threats themselves.

Here are some of the top security issues concerning hospitals today:

1. Abuse and battery towards medical staff

Assault and battery towards medical staff are the most common types of abuse-related injuries to occur within healthcare facilities. 80% of serious violent incidents reported in healthcare settings were caused by interactions with patients and were usually caused by patients hitting, kicking, beating, and/or shoving medical staff. There are many reasons that contribute to this. For one, patients may be victims of an incident caused by a dispute, creating a hostile or volatile environment inside the hospital. In other cases, patients may suffer from instabilities due to addiction or mental health issues.

At highest risk of patient-inflicted violence are psychiatric aides, who are more than ten times at higher risk than nursing assistants, the second-most affected group. Other high-risk groups include emergency departments, geriatrics, pediatrics, and behavioral health providers.

2. Active assailant attacks

Researchers at Brown University reported 241 hospital shootings between 2000 and 2015. Breaking this down, the majority of in-hospital shootings happened in the emergency room (29%), next to the parking lot (23%), and in patient rooms (19%).

As recent stories exemplify, simply having a plan is not enough. A recent active shooter situation at Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center exhibited the need for a much more comprehensive security approach. When the shooter entered the hospital and shot a patient, “Code Silver” was announced to all staff members. However, most staff did not know what the code meant, let alone how to react. The code has since changed to “Active Shooter,” along with other modifications to improve overall hospital security.

Bethesda Butler Hospital in Hamilton, Ohio is working to enhance training. They hired actors to practice emergency response to a hospital shooting. As Ronald J. Morris, the Director of Corporate Security for Tri-Health puts it, “It’s all about preparation and telling people about developing the right mindset so they can be more prepared.”

3. Infant abductions

Infant abduction is the most common type of abduction in healthcare facilities. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 317 cases of infant abductions occurred between 1965 and 2017. The majority of cases of infant abduction occur in the mother’s hospital room, with violence inflicted on the mother in 8% of cases. Before more advanced security protocols came to form, many of the perpetrators disguised themselves as medical personnel to steal a child, usually from the hands of the mother.

In response, hospitals have cracked down on security measures and patient education practices that directly address this type of risk. The system does not need to be complex, but it should be effective. For example, access to maternity wards should be limited to qualified personnel or individuals who can prove their relationship to a patient. This can be further reinforced with badges that identify the security clearance of medical staff.

4. Supplies and property theft

From drugs, food, and medical supplies, you could make an A-Z list of items that are stolen from healthcare facilities. In 2009, hospitals reported 272 incidents of theft. By 2015, this number rose to 2,926 – a 166% increase. The result can be extremely costly. As a single example, the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA counted 383 stolen pieces of equipment between 2010 and 2014, totaling to over $11 million in value.

Culprits include patients, visitors, and also staff. An employee at the Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-Westover Hills in San Antonio, TX admitted to stealing over $400,000 worth of equipment because “it was easy and no one asked any questions.” Hospital theft is a good indication of a vulnerable security system, and also contributes to unnecessary overhead costs.

5. Pressure to cut costs

While 49% of hospitals reported an increase in crime between 2016 and 2017, nearly 1 in 4 hospitals (23%) reported a decrease in its hospital security budget over the same period. Part of this involves a reluctance to hire more security staff. In an anonymous survey, hospital workers mentioned “more [security threat] incidents, no increase in staff,” as a key challenge for hospitals.

Given its impact on security measures such as employee training, staffing, and security equipment, the pressure to cut costs is one of the most devastating restraints to an effective security solution. With $3.6 billion in federal budget cuts announced for 2018, hospitals need to prioritize security measures that combine effectiveness with cost-efficiency to strive for the best return on investment and highest possible level of security.

Security demands are changing, and hospitals must keep up to protect the security of their patients and staff. To address the increasing risk of in-hospital crime, hospitals must prioritize prediction and prevention of crime just as much as how they respond to and manage incidents. Solutions to achieve this include more advanced technology and data collection, increased security visibility to deter criminals, and bolstering in-house security presence and security response.

Now is the time to examine and refresh whether your hospital is in need of updated practices. Explore our healthcare security and risk mitigation solutions.

  Category: Healthcare Security
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How the Threat of Active Assailants Impacts Hospital Security

By Lowers & Associates,

The tragic recent school shootings have shined a bright light on the threats that exist in our society, particularly within settings where mass casualties are possible. Hospitals have long been a target for workplace violence, and a place where people go for help. Emergency rooms are a particularly vulnerable target, which leaves hospitals with dual challenges of preparing to treat victims of a mass shooting in their communities and protecting their own environments from the same threat.

A 2012 Annals of Emergency Medicine study found 154 hospital shootings occurred from 2000 to 2011 across 40 states. Roughly 30% of those incidents occurred in emergency departments.

These numbers point to the fact that while active assailant incidents are relatively rare, they are nonetheless “predictable” in the sense that hospital administrators must know the threat exists and actively work to manage it. Across all facets of society, those responsible for protecting people can no longer simply ignore the threat of active assailants.

So, how should hospital security evolve to address the threat of workplace violence and active assailants? The answer is multi-faceted and detail-laden, but here are four high-level components:

1. Prioritize training and management that is specific to the threat of active assailants.

A recent study found that 69% of organizations view an active shooter incident as a potential top threat, but 79% feel their organizations are not fully prepared for this type of event. Active assailant events in a hospital environment are particularly unique and challenging. The International Association of Emergency Medical Services Chiefs (IAEMSC) published an in-depth document designed to help healthcare professionals address the threat. While the publication acknowledges there is no single method to respond to an incident, prior planning can help staff make the right decisions to achieve the goal of maximizing lives saved.

This is where it is worth bringing in experienced outside help to provide training and incident response planning specific to the threat of active assailants in your unique hospital or clinic environment.

2. Maintain a strong security presence.

An effective hospital security program is an ever-present one, highlighted by access control with robust training protocols and an always-active security approach. Access control is perhaps the strongest component of a healthcare security system and the greatest contributor to minimizing the risk of violence within a facility. In any healthcare environment, it is critical to limit access to only those patients, staff, and visitors with appropriate security clearance for the level of access they are seeking. This holds true for access to medications, newborns, patient rooms, patient data, and patients themselves.

For an always-active presence, hospitals should combine tangible security measures (e.g. patrols and presence at lobbies and other key entry points and recording cameras) with intangible practices (e.g. tight security protocols including badge for access control and a consistent check-in and check-out process). Implementing effective security protocols also must take into consideration the importance of training and background checks. For a safer hospital environment, staff must be appropriately screened and trained to execute all necessary security measures.

3. Keep security highly visible.

To design the visibility of your security system, look at it from the eyes of your patients. By adopting a patient-centered approach, you can better appreciate what a patient needs to feel secure when they are in a vulnerable position. For patients to feel secure, it helps to have visible security measures in place. These include physical signage, such as signs that explain security protocols, or visible cameras or security officers. These send the message that the hospital is there and ready to act to protect the safety of its patients.

4. Ensure prompt and complete response to all security incidents.

In a secure healthcare environment, no issue is too big or small. When a door lock breaks, it should be promptly fixed. Ignoring even small details can open the floodgates to bigger details being ignored as people begin to think no one is really paying attention.

This attention to detail should be applied to all hospital security practices, as every issue involving the safety of patients, visitors, and staff should be taken seriously. In response, this will permeate a culture of security, attentiveness, responsibility, and responsiveness across the entire healthcare security team.

A third-party risk management provider can be helpful to perform a thorough assessment of the above factors and to make a prioritized list of recommendations. They can even help you find and implement the right solutions. If you are in a situation where you don’t have the resources to take your security to the next level, or to address the specific threats of active assailants, then considering an external support partner may be the right next step.

Learn more about Lowers & Associates’ security and safety risk mitigation solutions for healthcare.

Violence in the Workplace: Healthcare Bears the Brunt [Infographic]

By Lowers & Associates,

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals go into the caregiving role for many reasons, but most reasons center on helping people. Unfortunately, by putting themselves in this role they also face the risks of violence.

Research published by Dr. James Phillips in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2016 found “health care violence is an underreported, ubiquitous, and persistent problem that has been tolerated and largely ignored.”  In his research, Dr. Phillips found:

  • almost 75% of all workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 happened in healthcare settings;
  • 1% of emergency department nurses reported physical assault during the last year; and
  • psychiatric aides experience workplace violence 69 times the national rate for all workplaces.

… Continue reading

  Category: Workplace Violence
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[Infographic] Your Hospital Security Program – A 3-Pronged Approach

By Lowers & Associates,

Violent crime is on the rise in healthcare institutions, up 40% over two years, according to a recent NY Times article. In fact, OSHA reports serious workplace violence is up to four times more likely in healthcare environments than in private industry.

Public institutions, hospitals, and medical facilities are subject to all of the same risks and threats as other public environments, and sometimes even more. People entering healthcare facilities are injured, sick, or otherwise compromised enough to require care. Loved ones accompanying them are also generally under stress or carrying concern. This combination of circumstances creates a perfect storm for irritability, tension, and even hostility, something that falls on the hospital security program to predict, prevent, monitor, and manage when something happens.

The weight is on hospital security systems to find and use effective best practices to reduce threats and resolve issues with minimal disruption or harm, preferably maximizing prevention.

In our latest infographic we examine three primary components of healthcare security’s best practices designed to meet today’s tough requirements: a strong presence, complete visibility, and a prompt, thorough response.

… Continue reading

How the Changing Face of Healthcare Impacts Security Risk

By Lowers & Associates,

It seems that with every shift in society’s standards or expectations, healthcare changes in the wake. Some major developments have occurred recently, and continue to unfold, which affect various aspects of the fabric of our culture, including healthcare.

These changes cause a subsequent trickle down to the security of healthcare, marking a rise in security risks. When our healthcare environments (hospitals, most notably) tip toward being less secure, this translates to a core infrastructure of our well-being being at risk – something requiring immediate and serious attention. … Continue reading