Eric Banghart is a senior business development manager for healthcare at Inovonics. He has more than 18 years of experience in the medical distribution industry. Prior to Inovonics, Banghart worked for Cardinal Health, Ambulatory Care as director of sales for the West region. Banghart has a bachelor’s degree in business and administration from the University of Colorado-Boulder.
In an Era of Repeated Workplace Violence, How Can Hospitals go Beyond Traditional Physical Security and Include Staff, Visitor and Patient Safety as Part of a Comprehensive Security Plan?
According to the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, “healthcare professionals are 16 times more likely to be attacked on the job than any other service professionals.” Hospital employees, for example, must care for and work with people who may be emotionally distressed, in severe pain, or dealing with behavioral health or substance abuse issues. Healthcare professionals, especially those in emergency and behavioral health departments, have increasingly become targets for physical or verbal attacks. Today, there is expansive research that points to an elevated incidence of violence in hospitals nationwide. For example, a report conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) in November 2011 found that 55 percent of emergency nurses reported having experienced verbal abuse or physical violence within a seven-day period. In fact, each year 500,000 nurses are victims of violent crimes in the workplace. Shockingly, these statistics only represent reported cases of violence. At best, only one out of five violent acts is actually reported (Source: Michael R. Privitera, Workplace Violence in Mental and General Healthcare Settings. [Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett, 2011]). The decision makers responsible for securing hospital facilities and campuses have traditionally utilized security systems that fall into one of three categories – intrusion, access control, or video. However, high-profile instances of hospital violence in recent years coupled with the alarming statistics that confirm healthcare workers are often at risk, have led many hospitals to seek a system that goes beyond just securing the building. These hospitals are taking steps to protect their most valuable assets, the safety of people in the hospital. This is being accomplished through the use of enterprise mobile duress people protection systems. With the use of a mobile pendant (see Figure 1), these systems are designed to help protect healthcare staff who carry the pendants, as well as other innocent people who might be in the vicinity of a potential threat.
What is an Enterprise Mobile Duress System?
Enterprise mobile duress systems are dedicated wireless alert solutions that hospitals use to help protect staff in threatening or potentially threatening situations. They consist of mobile panic button transmitters (pendants), highly secure wireless networks with the ability to locate a pendant anywhere coverage is provided, and software head-ends that process alerts and coordinate the appropriate communication to responders to expedite response time for people in need. Unlike stand-alone personal emergency response systems (PERS), enterprise mobile duress systems are designed to protect large numbers of users and have the ability to integrate with existing building security systems. Enterprise mobile duress security systems are designed to help protect not only hospital staff who carry mobile panic button transmitters, but can also play a critical role in notifying all innocent people within a building of danger, helping preserve the safety of everyone inside and out.
While there are many factors to consider when selecting a staff safety system, there are three essential capabilities that differentiate enterprise mobile duress systems in their ability to protect people. In general terms, those capabilities are location, notification and a wireless network capable of transmitting data reliably in a hospital setting.
The ability to locate a person or people in distress is absolutely necessary for an effective enterprise mobile duress system. This can be a challenge in hospitals because employees are constantly on the move. Therefore, an enterprise mobile duress system must provide the location of the emergency event along with the alarm to ensure an appropriate response. Without location, an enterprise mobile duress system would be far less effective in the fast paced environment of a hospital.
Enterprise mobile duress systems must be able to pinpoint a person in distress with enough accuracy to provide an effective response. This means that location within a building or on a campus is essential. While there are many technologies that tout location capabilities, special consideration should be given to whether those technologies are fit for purpose in this type of application and if the technology infrastructure/architecture can cover the variety of high risk areas traditionally found on hospital campuses.
Wide Range of Notification Capabilities
In order to best protect staff, a hospital must have a plan and train every employee on how to react should they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. In the worst case scenario, such as an active shooter situation, timing is critical. One way to ensure a fast response is a system that has the ability to notify responders who may be mobile, no matter where they are located on the campus.
In addition to notifying responders, it is equally important for everyone in the facility with potential exposure (from staff to patients to visitors) to receive some sort of notification. An effective enterprise mobile duress system will have the option to concurrently alert multiple devices such as telephones (landline and cellular), pagers, two-way radios, public address systems, and email, that a violent or potentially threatening situation has developed. An enterprise mobile duress system not only has the ability to utilize a large variety of communication devices, but also should be flexible enough to notify as many or few people as needed depending on the situation and be able to escalate notifications when needed.
Reliable Wireless Technologies
The best enterprise mobile duress systems are only as good as the wireless network they are built upon. Reliability is a major consideration for any security application, but becomes paramount when it comes to protecting people. Hospitals present unique challenges for radio frequency (RF) transmission in the facility or on the campus, often due to building construction and the proliferation of many kinds of wireless technologies in use within a single facility. Enterprise mobile duress systems require that a wireless signal be sent from the call for help to the responders quickly and reliably.
An enterprise mobile duress system also should ensure that all staff, patients, and visitors receive the coverage. While the employees who are at the highest risk will typically carry the pendants, everyone within the hospital that has deployed enterprise mobile duress can feel more at ease if they are able to receive notification of a potentially dangerous event, even if they aren’t directly responsible for activating a pendant. It is critical for the wireless portion of the enterprise mobile duress system to be carefully selected because an unreliable system could have a devastating result.
Physical security systems alone are no longer adequate to protect healthcare workers who have experienced an alarming rate of increased workplace violence. The individuals who we rely on for our critical care needs are in danger and rapidly becoming dependant on enterprise mobile duress systems that provide a means of immediate notification and response when threatened. By notifying appropriate responders and other people who may be in harm’s way; pinpointing the location of the person in distress, even if they change locations; and doing all of these actions reliably despite challenging RF environments, the right enterprise mobile duress system can offer a sense of personal security to staff in the greatest time of need. By understanding what characterizes an effective enterprise mobile duress system, hospitals can feel confident that they are providing the best option to combat violent or potentially threatening situations for their staff and creating a safer environment for all.