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Access Control in the Healthcare Industry

18 January 2016

An IPM white paper by Avron Jacobson COO at IPM.

Access control and security in health care facilities have their unique challenges - largely due to the presence of large people flow which makes it difficult in many cases to control access and identify trespassers.

This basic vulnerability is complicated when combined with several other considerations such as the fact that a large amount of hospital property has ordinary domestic uses or is otherwise useable outside the health care environment.

Relatively easy access to medicines and drugs and the fact that access to secure areas often goes unchallenged, make healthcare facilities attractive to negative elements. Given the fact that most of the items stolen are disposable - means that reporting of crime in Health Care facilities is often under-reported or not even realised.

This risk clearly justifies an access control system to ensure that storage facilities for consumables, medicines and drugs are secure and also compliant with drug administration statutory requirements. The challenge faced is that to install a hard wired, full on-line access control system for a facility securing amongst others, internal doors, pharmaceutical cabinets, refrigerators, storerooms and patient/employee lockers, is not only prohibitively expensive but not always technically practical due to the difficulty of installing mains power and network cabling routes. In addition it is not possible to secure portable drug or consumable cabinets with conventionally wired systems.

With the latest advancement of Wireless Online Access Control Systems, the challenges posed above are a thing of the past as the latest state-of-the-art self-powered electronic locking systems offer flexible and functional access control with a wide choice of software options. These systems are designed to work in a wire-free environment so there is no need for hard wiring the building and in most cases allowing you to keep your original wired access control system, doors and locks in place. This makes installation fast, self-contained and straightforward. Typically, some of these access control systems make use of distributed intelligence in both the lock and the access card, to communicate wirelessly with the PC based programming software.

Both access cards and locks can be programmed to allow or restrict access to different parts of the building. The information stored in the access card can be transferred to a database when the card is swiped at an online reader to provide precise audit trail information about where and when each lock has been accessed including the date, time and whether access was allowed or denied. Some systems make use of proprietary Virtual Networks where access data from offline locks is carried on the access card - this provides 90% of the benefits of a full on-line system for the cost of a stand-alone system.

With on-line wireless locking systems, health care facilities can now experience affordable, real time access control without the need for wiring - drastically reducing the cost of implementation with the added benefit of recording and controlling access to padlocks, portable medicine and consumable cabinets as well as patient and employee personal lockers - all with one access card.

Budgets can be used more effectively as the cost benefits from installing wireless readers is used to secure more doors in the facility with the same spend as well as secure doors/locks that were previously not possible or justified using a hard wired system.

Choosing an implementation partner who can seamlessly integrate new wireless technology with your current hard wired access control system (including biometrics for high security areas or Antenatal wards) eliminates the need to replace existing systems. Perimeter booms, gates, doors, lifts are secured with online / offline wall readers, interior doors and fire escapes are secured with battery powered networked electronic locks compatible with the Hospital’s staff ID badge or an RFID bracelet. Closets, file cabinets, drug storage areas and lockers are secured with wire-free locker locks. The same RFID card can also be used for time recording, secure log onto PC systems, operate printers & copiers or used at the canteen for cashless purchases.

All of the above is seamlessly integrated to HR / Payroll / Time Management / Administrative solutions to eliminate the need for duplicate capture of data and ensure that tags are cancelled when a person / patient leaves. The result is an entire facility effectively secured whist permanently eliminating the need for keys and master keys.

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