Exploring the latest access control technologies for hospitals and residential care facilities
In this article we explore how hospitals and care homes can control access into and around buildings in order to protect patients, staff and property
Hospitals and residential care facilities are not only home to members of staff who will be there round the clock on a daily basis, but also patients and a large volume of visitors.
As well as these people, the buildings contain many high-value goods like computers, medical equipment, and personal possessions; and there are confidential documents and controlled medicines on the premises.
The plethora of access control systems available, be they standalone, wireless, or fully integrated, can seem like both a help and a hindrance to time-constrained facilities managers
Consequently, while there is a need to enable people to move around the buildings with relative ease, there is also a need to control access into and around hospital and care home sites.
But the days of having to find the right key for the right lock are long gone, with estates and facilities managers now opting for electronic access control systems instead.
Generally for health and social care settings, these solutions comprise of three component parts. The first is a physical barrier, most often a door secured by a magnetic or strike lock; a turnstile or speedgate designed to limit access to one person when a card is presented; or a car park barrier designed to limit vehicular access.
The second element is an identification device. This can be a proximity card and reader that uses short or long-range radio-frequency identification (RFID) to enable entry; a smartcard and reader; a swipe card and reader; a PIN pad; or a biometric system that uses iris or fingerprint recognition.
There is still the impression that investing in a new security system has to be a significant capital investment
Finally, the system needs a door controller and associated software. Options include stand-alone door controllers that are linked to a single door with no software; or a number of controllers all linked together to a single PC to control one site or multiple areas.
Assa Abloy Security Solutions has recently launched a downloadable white paper discussing access control systems and their specification1.
Nojmol Islam, product manager and author of the paper, said: “The plethora of access control systems available, be they standalone, wireless, or fully integrated, can seem like both a help and a hindrance to time-constrained facilities managers.
“For many buildings, it is necessary to strike a balance between creating a welcoming environment, and a secure environment – all the while factoring in budgeting restrictions.”
A thorough risk assessment for your hospital or residential care home will determine the level of security you require and in turn influence your choice of system
The eight-page document explains the various types of access control solutions and when they are most appropriate.
Often the most-popular option is a standalone system, which controls a single door. This is a good choice as it is scalable, flexible, environmentally friendly and easily implemented. Where a more-complex system is required – such as in maternity units, mental health facilities and care homes where patients may be vulnerable or prone to wandering – more-complicated technology is available, for example wireless or fully-integrated options.
Assa Abloy Security Solutions has published a white paper discussing access control systems and their specification
The white paper states: “There is now a huge range of different options available to tackle the security challenges a modern building may face. This in itself has posed a challenge for time-constrained facilities managers, who face a difficult task identifying the most-secure and cost-effective solution.
“One way to choose between the different options available is to use a simple planning tool, namely the ‘hurdle rate’. This is where specifiers and estate managers work together to answer the following questions:
“With the answers to these questions established, it means that in critical areas it can be perfectly appropriate to invest in several barriers to entry, with clear alarms, response times and routines.”
And cost does not have to be a hindrance, despite a lack of capital among many health and social care trusts.
“There is still the impression that investing in a new security system has to be a significant capital investment,” says the white paper.
Due to the flexibility and wide range of access control systems available, there is a solution for almost every security challenge
“While it is true that higher-end, fully-integrated systems do have the potential to be expensive, an effective specification should allay this concern. It will help the customer to identify a solution that balances security, risk and cost.
“Due to the flexibility and wide range of access control systems available, there is a solution for almost every security challenge.”
It adds: “Correctly-specified and integrated access control facilitates the secure freedom of movement within a building. With the burden of key management removed, security feels less cumbersome and intrusive for the users of a building.”
Examples of where modern access control systems have helped within health and social care settings include the introduction of a fully-integrated IP security solution at Glasgow’s Stobhill and Victoria hospitals. All access points are now covered by card readers, which provide an inbuilt database for card validation, a keypad for added PIN security, and a unique back-lit LCD screen showing response messages for the cardholder, for example ‘access denied’ or ‘card expired’.
The system will help to protect staff, patients and equipment and provide and record data about who is accessing each area and when.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital also recently replaced its standalone keypad and lock system with an electronic system that works by reading staff ID badges. This prevents unauthorised access to the unit and high-security areas such as the pharmacy. Since implementation, staff report that workers and patients feel safer and the trust now intends to roll out the solution to other areas.
The Royal Liverpool Hospital and Addenbrooke’s Hospital have also upgraded their systems over recent years.
To provide advice to estates and facilities professionals, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has published A guide to access control for the healthcare sector 2. Complete with case studies and an overview of available systems, it states: “Access control provides the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets and vehicles and is essential to protect people and assets.
“A thorough risk assessment for your hospital or residential care home will determine the level of security you require and in turn influence your choice of system.”
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