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The prescription calls for integration

Hospitals are a place we typically all like to avoid in our personal lives, but as an integrator, it can be an interesting environment to work in. In this environment, there is opportunity to put your integration talent and expertise to work.

March 2, 2011  By Steve Bocking

Integrators that service hospitals do much more than standard security such as CCTV and access control. They are often also called on to do paid parking systems, nurse call and infant protection systems. There are also new requests for video management systems (VMS) to be used as video conferencing and video recording for patient/doctor studies. The list of requests is typically long and the budgets fairly restricted, but proposing integration and being creative can go a long way.

The two most classic systems are the video management system and access control system (ACS), typically with 24/7 monitoring on site. In a hospital, most of the action happens inside the building. So, in order to save on storage and to make guards more efficient, both recording and live monitoring can be set up on event-based actions such as motion detection, doors forced, etc. Offering a unified video and access control solution is the first step and can not only create operational efficiencies with the guards but a hospital can also often save money on infrastructure by having both applications run on same server.

There are not too many VMS or ACS systems that natively offer nurse call, infant protection or paid parking, so the integration capabilities of the chosen platform will be important to consider. A software development kit (SDK) will probably be required to do the integration between all systems, but many VMS or ACS suppliers should offer “off-the-shelf” integrations to at least one of the mentioned systems.

To increase return on investment, the security system can be used in some creative ways. The first example is adding door readers to prescription drug cabinets. This allows for increased control of expensive and sometimes addictive substances, thus saving money by reducing shrinkage. Another interesting feature is camera blocking. The cameras on floors with long-term patients could be blocked from view at the guard post and only unblocked based on normal events such as nurse call or abnormal events such as a door held open. This not only allows a hospital to ensure patient privacy, it should increase reaction time for emergencies and decrease time lost dealing with false alarms.


More and more, I am seeing the VMS used for other non-security applications. This is a great way to share costs of the system across other groups within the hospital. For example, some hospitals are using their VMS for studies of doctor/patient interactions. In one project I was involved in, the integrator had an innovative way of using a mini 270 degree PTZ.  If a patient had to disrobe, the doctor would push a button and the camera would go to a preset facing the wall. This action would simultaneously block the camera from being viewed and recorded, but more importantly, with the camera physically facing the wall, the patient was re-assured that they were not being filmed.

 I have also seen the VMS used as a video conferencing system so that doctors can communicate with patients in remote locations and assess certain ailments using IP cameras. From an administrative standpoint, patient studies and video conferencing could be completely partitioned, but all physically housed on the same server using the same VMS license.

By getting creative and encouraging inter-departmental sharing, you should be able to get all the doctor’s orders.

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