In the midst of Healthcare Safety and Security Week, it’s important to acknowledge the changing landscape of the healthcare industry and the measures required to protect patients, staff, and visitors from harm.
As we’ve seen over the last several years, on-site instances of workplace violence in hospitals is increasing, prompting more investment in security technology (according to this article here in Campus Safety). But these investments need to be made intelligently with a focus on equipping modern security leaders in the industry with the right tools to advance their security programs and meet business goals.
To do so, these leaders have to address hidden inefficiencies that may be creating holes in healthcare and hospital security programs and might be draining resources that can be better spent on optimizing the program instead. Add in the ongoing challenges around workplace violence and safety in this sector, and this might be creating an unhealthy level of work for security practitioners.
Here are three examples where inefficiencies may exist:
Data remains unused.
Too often, we’re leaving data on the table because we don’t know how to use it properly. We aren’t sure where it lives, where to view it, how to access it in real-time, or how to normalize it. And in essence, you can’t realize its full potential until you do. This can come from intrusion and fire alarms, video surveillance cameras, access control systems, perimeter security devices, building management systems, intelligence platforms, corporate traveler data, social media, and many other sources to help teams gather information about any given situation.
So much of the incoming data from physical security devices remains unused until an incident occurs, which means security programs might be missing out on valuable insights that can be used to better serve the facility and broader organization to become more efficient. Modern security leaders should be leveraging data to conduct quantitative, data-driven risk assessments, resulting in real-time risk data that has a meaningful impact on security operations, business investment, and resource allocation.
There are gaps in field resources and guards.
By their very nature, healthcare facilities require extensive security measures to be in place and oftentimes, this means guarding resources, which can be a significant expense for the organization. The amount spent on guarding resources can vary widely depending on the size, location, and security needs of a facility.
Healthcare workers in particular face a significant amount of workplace violence – and according to a study that appeared in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 85% of non-fatal workplace violence-related incidents occur in healthcare or social service-related industries. This prevalence may constitute the use of more guarding resources than in many other industries.
Some healthcare facilities may employ their own security personnel, while others may contract with private security companies. In either case, it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of the program without comprehensive data (see above).
High turnover rates for these positions can pose a real challenge for training and resource allotment, as well, with some sites having 200% annual turnover. As security programs mature and become more efficient, guarding resources can also shift toward being increasingly proactive instead of reactive. Reducing tedious work and shifting that toward a technology platform frees these professionals up for more meaningful work, which can impact employee satisfaction and ultimately, retention. It can also reduce the number of people necessary for the same work, saving valuable resources.
Disparate systems create silos.
It’s not a secret that physical and cyber security teams are still operating in completely different spheres. And in many regards, cybersecurity protocols are lightyears ahead of the game. In one study from Nemertes Research, only 10.3% of organizations cited the two coming together at any level. This means that in almost 90% of companies, the two departments are separate, which can be dangerous. According to a 2022 Verizon Data Breach Report, 85% of cybersecurity breaches involved a human element; this includes exposure to insider threats and physical breaches.
Forward-thinking organizations are investing heavily in cybersecurity efforts by implementing smart software designed to detect and remediate all manners of insider and online threats. However, when organizations can use incoming data from both their cyber and physical security systems together through a single platform, they get better visibility into the anomalies that indicate malicious activity. This helps security leaders proactively improve detection because the anomalies create a signature that indicates suspicious activity, much in the same way early antivirus measures worked in cybersecurity.
Technology to Boost Workplace Safety
Security leaders across healthcare systems need to be able to dynamically shift the measures they use on a case-by-case basis. For example, when an employee is working from home, or traveling, but near a dangerous event like a shooting or a weather event, there’s a potential risk for that employee to get injured, or for continuity of the business to be disrupted.
It becomes crucial then to differentiate between what is noise, and what is intelligent information which can be researched and found viable. Technology and software – such as the HiveWatch® GSOC Operating System – that is able to take device data and analyze and report on the incoming data to inform decision-making allows security teams to better assess the risks to the organization and protect the workplace.
Security leaders, therefore, must be able to tell the right story about using data and how certain security measures could or have prevented a disaster, so that they can be prepared when a security threat arrives at their doorstep. That’s the only way to elevate the conversation around workplace safety in healthcare and beyond.
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