Surveillance Serves Many Uses In Hospitals


A health care professional might tell you that people are generally not at their best when they enter a hospital as a patient. A security professional would agree.

The contrast in perspectives, however, is dramatic. Health care professionals are potential targets for crime, while security professional try to see the whole picture with video surveillance.

It’s not a pretty picture, in terms of hospital safety nationwide. For video surveillance providers, however, hospitals are big business.

Gary Buss, the health care account manager at Tech Electronics, a St. Louis-based integrator, said hospital security systems are an important reason why his company – which made its name by designing and implementing fire alarm systems – has seen a 100 percent growth in overall revenue and volume over the past five years. The improvement in video technology, lower price point of network cameras, and rising crime rates in hospitals have created a perfect storm, so to speak, for integrators and manufacturers of video surveillance systems.

“The technological advancement (in IP camera technology) has led to our fiscal growth,” said Buss.

Buss and other integrators do not mince words when discussing how cultural and societal changes have created a boom market for video surveillance in hospitals. The anecdotes can be frightening and the statistics blunt.

A 2012 crime and security trends survey published by the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety reported that 154 shootings took place inside health care facilities nationwide between 2000 and 2011. The survey also reported that more than 98 percent of all health care facilities in the U.S. “experience violence and criminal incidents.”

“Although the public’s view of health care facilities is that they are inherently safe and secure, it is not an entirely accurate one,” the IAHSS reported.

Integrators can rattle off long lists of sections and scenarios where hospitals find video surveillance critical for survival and success. They include employee and patient parking lots, document storage areas, pharmacies, cafeterias, gift shops, obstetrics and emergency rooms, for starters. Even Alzheimer’s patients make it almost impossible to recount situations without a video record, given their unpredictable and random behavior, along with their medical needs.

Tom Catagnus, director of sales and marketing at Integrated Security and Communications, based in Toms River, N.J., recently accompanied a friend to an emergency room in Newark, where he encountered a common experience at hospitals across the nation—a nine-hour wait.

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw,” said Catagnus. What he saw was an overwhelming need for security. “The amount of violence in hospitals is unbelievably huge,” he said.

“It’s not always the best clientele,” noted Carole Dougan, vice president of sales and marketing of megapixel IP-camera provider Arecont Vision, based in Glendale, California. “Emergency rooms are high stress areas. You might have someone who was turned away, no insurance, or someone irrational. You can have a gang shooting. It’s extremely volatile.”

Hospitals have always had security mechanisms, Dougan noted, but analog cameras came up short when trying to identify license plate numbers or when covering a large area with humans moving unpredictably.

“The technology is now almost limitless,” said Shawn Reilly, head of health care security training and risk evaluation at Tech Systems, an integrator based in Duluth, Georgia.

Digital cameras with high-definition, megapixel cameras can scan, zoom and essentially recreate scenes for investigators and hospital supervisors trying to figure out what went wrong in the sprawling campuses of big-city hospitals, industry experts say. (Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis has 600 cameras and 1,500 secured doors, according to Buss.) […]

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