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Tools of the Trade: Surveillance tech ensures safe and smart health-care facilities


June 22, 2022
By Paul Baratta

Paul Barrata, Axis Communications

Health-care facilities throughout the country are facing a shifting landscape with unprecedented capacity and staffing challenges, as patient admissions surge, surgeries continue to be delayed, and staff absenteeism rises. As a result, many are looking to surveillance technologies to help improve health standards and provide safety for everyone in and around the facility.

Even as we move forward, lift restrictions, and learn to live with the virus, health-care facilities are working around the clock to treat patients and catch up on surgeries and other services.

That said, professionals running these facilities are left asking themselves: How do we provide quality care and safety at this time? How can we better protect our patients, employees, and equipment? And how can technology help us do our job today and, in our facility, long-term? These concerns help paint a picture of what’s most concerning in this industry: health, safety, and security.

Trends around surveillance and technology in the workplace

Workforce shortage is still a problem in this sector, and it will be for quite some time. This has led to an increase in hospitals investing in video and audio technology to assist in and increase tele-sitting and tele-ICU treatment, and to allow communication with other hospitals.

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Another common issue health-care facilities are trying to overcome with technology is around fall detection. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a way to gather analytics around patient fall predictions. Then there’s patient satisfaction that needs to be measured. That can be done using surveillance video and audio to assist with throughput and in providing announcements and directions to provide clarity, and to secure areas with intercoms and door stations. Securing areas is a helpful remedy for controlling visitors and entrances from unauthorized entry, using analytics to alert to loitering, large groups in waiting rooms and people lining up. All this helps with patient flow and increases care satisfaction. Sound and acoustic analytics from audio solutions are ideal for detecting aggressive behaviour within the facility and creating a proactive security approach.

Healthcare violence is on the rise and emergency rooms (ERs) are especially volatile with restrictions placed on patients and visitors, heightened anxiety, fatigue, fear, and frustration. This has led to the demand for wearable technology solutions to help de-escalate workplace aggression or violence.

A prescription to stem escalating aggression: wearable technology

An exemplary case of dealing with aggression in the workplace and that also reflects Canadian healthcare systems is CoxHealth based in Springfield, Missouri. The CoxHealth system extends across 25 counties and includes six hospitals, more than 80 physician clinics, five emergency departments, as well as walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities. Over the last two years, they’ve seen an exponential increase in violent situations.

As a premier health-care system, they decided to combat workplace violence with a more reliable body-worn camera system that was durable and easier to activate, easier to offload, and that would deliver forensic quality recordings. They outfitted their public safety and security officers with user-friendly-to-operate camera vests to help them record incidents, hopefully de-escalate situations, and deal with false claims of officer misconduct in a single-button activation. Other ways body-worn cameras benefit the facility:

  • Simplicity of offloading the recorded video – When an officer completes their shift, they can place their wearable camera in a docking station that automatically offloads the video and sends it to their server. Efficiency and time saving come into play as the camera also charges in the docking station, so that it’s instantly ready for the next shift of officers.
  • Proactive, instant recording – To ensure every incident is fully recorded, body-worn cameras were set up with a 30-second pre-buffer because most incidents start before an officer has an opportunity to turn the camera on.
  • Seamless integration – CoxHealth does not have a standalone body-worn surveillance system. Integration was made to be seamless. These cameras add another layer of security, augmenting hundreds of cameras already deployed throughout its hospitals and clinics.
  • Camera sharing across shifts – Rather than permanently assign a specific camera to each officer, which would leave the camera idle between an officer’s shifts, round-the-clock coverage was achieved by adding RFID card readers to the system. With this in place, officers can swipe their fob and have the system controller automatically assign them any of the available cameras in the docking station. It also links the officer’s credentials to the recording for accurate archiving and retrieval.
  • Capture missed details – Recording from the facility’s body worn surveillance is used to counter bogus complaints against its officers. They provide a third-person witness revealing more about a situation, frame-by-frame, than initially realized.

CoxHealth now has the essential tools to assist the officers in doing their job and their wearable solutions are providing value on multiple levels. They can capture incidents of violence for reporting and prosecution, as well as for training and prevention. Overall, wearables are natural complement to their entire health and safety program.

How to achieve a higher certainty of workplace safety success

Before health-care facilities make the investment in securing any kind of technology solution, they need to consider their foundation for workplace safety. They need to understand exactly what level of workplace aggression is taking place by asking staff through an independent and anonymous survey. Most hospitals need to understand the actual requirement to combat workplace violence and communicate to staff that it is unacceptable. It starts with senior management and security management taking a proactive stance in the safety of patients, visitors, and staff. Video and audio solutions need to be a part of that strategy in combination with training policies and guidelines put in place.

Being proactive in this sense, means to be forthcoming with information on events, taking on crime prevention and building a security program of trust and confidence — keeping people safe and bringing added value to patients by improving care.

Management of Aggressive Behaviour (MOAB) training should be mandatory for anyone working in the emergency room, the most “dangerous” entry point to a hospital, due to the unknown status of many of the people coming in for treatment. This is where hospitals should consider access control technology to ensure that entry is secure, and have video set up with analytics such as acoustic solutions to capture aggressive behaviour. Developing a security system that includes “eyes and ears” with IP video, IP audio, and camera edge analytics that make the system proactive in keeping people safe.

Finally, when outfitting with new surveillance solutions, training on usage is essential and most importantly, the policies and guidelines around maintenance and upkeep of the systems and solutions in place. Never simply add and forget — have a maintenance program, upgrades when needed, and keep passwords updated and changed. The world around us is always changing, this means that sourced technology needs to be flexible and secure to strengthen health-care operations, they need to be rooted in integration, and they must scale to match growth and to help the infrastructure better manage the next crisis.

Paul Baratta is the segment development manager for health-care for Axis Communications (www.axis.com).

This article originally appeared on OHSCanada.com, an Annex Business Media publication.