Public arenas everywhere have cracked down on security, so why is healthcare so far behind this prominent trend? As a public institution, hospitals usher in dozens or hundreds of visitors every day, which include people from every walk of life who may be in distress as they cope with a loved one’s medical emergency. According to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation’s 2017 Healthcare Crime Survey, the overall violent crime rate in US hospitals has increased in 2016, compared to the previous year. Results showed additionally, that workplace violence, which accounts for visitor-on-staff, or patient-on-staff, made up 85% of all aggravated assaults, and 91% of all assaults. So why aren’t nurses required to have the same public security training as flight attendants when crime in healthcare has risen so dramatically in recent years?
In May of 2014, a woman in Pittsburgh was sentenced to prison for abducting a 3-day-old infant from a hospital by carrying the baby out in a handbag, according to the Associated Press. Furthermore, in August of 2016, an armed shooter killed a patient and health care aide at a Florida hospital. Other contributors to violent crimes in the healthcare sector include gang disputes that spill over into hospitals, and cutbacks in state corrections budgets that result in channeling forensic patients to local hospitals.
In addition to violence, theft is also a major concern for most healthcare facilities. With substance abuse on the rise, hospital pharmacies are targets for narcotic addicts. Expensive medical equipment and patient identity data is also at risk for theft when unidentified visitors are roaming your facility and your security is lacking.
According to Health Facilities Management’s 2016 Hospital Security Survey, 75% of hospitals found it more challenging to maintain security in their facilities over the past two years, in part due to an increase in behavior health issues and Opioid abuse. In many facilities there is not a visitor management system in place. Establishing one is a crucial security measure to protect and provide peace of mind to patients, staff and other patrons. Without one, your facility faces a much higher risk for violence and theft to occur. Because of this, hospitals are required to identify visitors in order to meet regulatory compliances by the Joint Commission, OSHA, and HIPAA.
If you are concerned that your visitor management system may not be up to par, here are six easy steps to help your facility adopt best practices to enhance security and maintain regulatory compliance.
STEP 1: DO SOMETHING…ANYTHING!
Does your facility have a security policy in place for visitors? If not, better get started. The Joint Commission’s accreditation requires “the hospital to have a written plan for managing the following: security of everyone who enters the hospital’s facilities,” (EC.01.01.0). Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and develop an effective hospital security program to mitigate risks, threats, and vulnerabilities. Risks must be monitored, reviewed, and addressed on a continuous basis. Choose appropriate security measures to implement to reduce the identified risks. Your security policy should also specifically address how visitors will be identified and managed.
STEP 2: STOP ACTING LIKE A TEENAGER AND LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS
The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert #45 for “preventing violence in the healthcare setting,” which emphasized that in light of steadily increasing crime rates, a secure hospital campus is vital to the safety of your patients, staff and visitors. HIPAA’s Facility Access Policy requires visitors to wear ID badges for the specific department they are visiting, while unidentified individuals will be immediately escorted out of restricted areas. The Joint Commission’s accreditation also requires hospitals to “manage safety and security risks,” (EC.02.01.01). An estimated 17% of hospitals received visitor-related citations in 2009, according to the Joint Commission.
STEP 3: SEND YOUR STAFF TO BOOT CAMP
Lack of proper staff training in visitor management puts your security plan at risk, so it’s critical to make training a priority. Set up informative sessions for new employees and mandate annual refresher courses for your entire hospital staff. Conduct periodic assessments. Mention important statistics like:
- Healthcare is more susceptible than all other industries for workplace violence. Nearly 75% of all workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 occurred in the healthcare industry
- Between 2000 and 2011, 154 shootings resulted in an injury on the grounds of a US hospital
- 98% of healthcare facilities experience violence and criminal incidents
- Healthcare and social workers are 5 times more likely to be victims of a non-fatal assault or violent act than in any other occupation
- More than 60% of workplace non-fatal assaults occur in healthcare
- Assault rate has increased from 8.1 per 100 beds in 2015 to 9.3 in 2016
STEP 4: BE A HERO TO THE VULNERABLE
Certain areas and departments are more susceptible to crime than others. For this reason, staff who work in high-security wards should have special training and greater awareness of access control by checking all visitors’ ID on a regular basis. Some of the departments that require greater visitor supervision include L&D, the ER, the ICU, children’s wards, and all hospital pharmacies.
STEP 5: FIND YOUR FIT
Depending on your visitor volume, location, and security needs, one type of visitor management system may work better for your facility than another.
- SHORT ON FUNDS? – Try a handwritten system. While this may be sufficient for low-volume facilities in areas with minor crime rates, it definitely has its flaws. Visitor and department names can easily be recorded incorrectly. Also, unauthorized perpetrators could acquire blank badges and falsify information to gain access to high-security areas, creating a serious safety risk.
- HAVE A LITTLE EXTRA TIME TO SPARE? – Use print on demand badges accompanied by a log book. This option is definitely better than a handwritten system, but it is still subject to certain problems. At first glance, staff may not know if a visitor’s badge has expired or designated for a different day than listed. If using this method, assign color-coding for different days of the week to increase security.
- WANT TO GET ON BOARD WITH THE REST OF THE 21ST CENTURY? – You need a complete visitor management system including software, self-expiring badges, and a badge printer. But don’t worry too much – some of these systems are surprisingly inexpensive! Your hospital can conveniently fill out and print badges within seconds, while keeping track of visitors via software. This way, a log book is not needed and caregivers are able to save valuable time and resources. Self-expiring badges feature a red “VOID” alert after one day to provide a highly-visible notification to staff. Plus, badges can be completely customized to include departments, type of visitors, and more.
This is an easy-to-implement, low-tech option for hospitals of all admission volumes and security risks. Remember, there will always be a need to visually identify everyone in your facility. As evidenced by recent events, making identification judgments based solely on clothing puts your entire facility at risk.
STEP 6: ALL EYES ON DECK
Now that you have a visitor management system in place, and your staff is properly trained on how to implement it, be sure to conduct routine check-ups on your security and hospital staff to ensure they are following protocol. As a test, conduct a monthly “secret visitor” training where unidentified visitors, or visitors with expired or incorrectly labeled badges, walk around various departments. This will provide some insight on how well your staff is following protocol, as well as keeping them accountable for the role they play in your hospital’s visitor management system.
If you’re interested in implementing a complete system like the one mentioned above, ID solutions expert PDC Healthcare offers the TEMPbadge® Visitor Management System that helps boost security and improve patient and staff safety. The company has been manufacturing hospital ID solutions for more than 55 years, from simple, inexpensive wristbands to complete management systems. PDC Healthcare offers an extensive line of visitor identification products to fit every facility and budget.
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For more information on visitor management solutions, visit www.pdchealthcare.com/visitorid or contact PDC Healthcare at 800.435.4242 to discuss your current needs.