Enhancing Clinical Employees' Safety in Healthcare
Learn about the safety risks in healthcare and how technology can help mitigate those risks.
In This Article
Workplace violence is unfortunately a growing threat to employees in all industries. Heightened stress due to medical, environmental and financial factors is resulting in vastly more violence towards healthcare workers than any other industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, there were 13,064 cases of non-fatal intentional injury by persons in the healthcare and social assistance sector — accounting for 71 percent of total reported incidents, and this only included incidents that resulted in missed work days. OSHA and multiple other polling groups agree that a much larger number of workplace injuries go unreported because clinicians feel it is part of the job.
According to American College of Emergency Physicians, 47 percent of physicians say they personally have been physically assaulted at work and nearly 80 percent acknowledge that violence in hospitals is impacting patient health.
The cost is twofold: the physical injury to both clinician and patients and a very real financial impact to the hospital. With the majority of hospitals being self-insured, they will bear the full cost of medical care, including any litigious action taken by an employee. Unfortunately, the trends show this problem is only increasing at a rapid rate in the healthcare industry.
In hospitality, even walking the hallways in some of the larger casino/hotels can expose employees to risky situations. In the past unions were concerned about tracking software, and now they are demanding tools that can protect employees by tracking their location.
Cities and states, including Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Seattle and Sacramento, are now passing laws mandating companies provide their employees with location-aware ‘panic buttons.’ Now those laws and requirements are making their way into the healthcare sector, with many new bills being proposed in statehouses around the country.
Healthcare is a unique sector, as both employees and patients are frequently under enormous stress that is increasingly manifesting as workplace violence. Additionally, healthcare environments are increasingly becoming soft targets for individuals planning great harm to populations of people. The paradox lies in the challenges of implementing security protocols such as large metal detectors or other standard protection tools like visible security guards at points of ingress that can trigger and heighten stress with vulnerable individuals and patients.
By using technology, communication and pre-planning we can help minimize the risk and better respond quickly with a layered defense strategy to workplace violence. This strategy includes: smart cameras, location based panic buttons, integrated messaging systems and smart building controls. Implementing a solutions-focused strategy and not a series of disparate technologies is a necessary start to protect our employees and patients.
The old days of the slow-panning cameras being fed to a security office in the basement are long behind us. Today’s cameras are more than a video capture device, they provide smart and actionable insight into what is occurring inside your organization’s walls. The intelligence built into smart cameras can count people in line and display length of lines over the course of the day — allowing better staffing models. Or they can detect things like a backpack behind which could be a security threat.
These cameras can leverage analytics with intelligence engines to provide valuable insights into behaviors and send real-time proactive alerts that enable preventative intervention and not reactive crisis control. Some of those behaviors could be a person pacing in a hallway which may not be a security threat but could be someone that still needs to talk to a clinical care provider soon. Some camera systems have facial recognition capability to identify any key individuals who are on a "be on the look-out" (BOLO) list — including those who have posed a violent threat previously and are returning into the building.
Finally, features can include the ability to identify weapons being carried by a person walking in the building such as a gun, knife or bat and send urgent alerts to building security. The capabilities of cameras are growing exponentially, the key here is to have a camera system that can harness the power of analytics and provide security insights to the business.
Location-based panic buttons
Having a quick and easy button that is worn on an employee’s badge or in their pocket is often a simple solution that makes employees in any industry feel far more secure. The key to these systems is easy deployment, ability to activate without looking at the device and sharing of accurate location with security teams.
There are many ways to implement these systems — many of which leverage existing Wi-Fi for rapid deployment, whereas others leverage BLE or proprietary technology to provide separation from production Wi-Fi networks. These ‘panic buttons’ have long been used in certain segments of health systems, but usually in a fixed deployment such as under a receptionist desk. Health systems can start thinking expanding these use-cases as a way to protect front line clinical workers.
Implementing some of these solutions into an integrated strategy creates layered defenses that work together. For example, by integrating a location panic button with the camera system, a security team can not only receive a real-time alert but can immediately locate the area where it is occurring and alert all the appropriate response teams without using overhead announcements.
If the location is a patient room without a camera, the video surveillance from a hallway camera can quickly identify and locate a suspect and lock down neighboring departments. All this is a way of identifying, isolating and alerting quickly and with minimal impact to patient care throughout the medical environment.
What results from all this is an integrated safety solution consisting of technology, process and people. By tying these three together a system can create limitless and flexible capabilities for current, near-term and long-term safety requirements.