Hospital balances technology and personnel, advocates for improved public/private partnerships
LONG BEACH, Calif.—Like most healthcare providers, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach is largely concerned about not allowing dangerous or unstable individuals into its facilities. Pacific Hospital’s close proximity to large public parks means there is a large transient population to contend with and the security department must utilize various security measures to protect its patients and staff.
While technology is critical to protecting the hospital’s two campuses, Bob Vance, executive director of Pacific Hospital, said proper training of officers must not be overlooked. “If an officer is not trained appropriately, it doesn’t matter what technology you bring, if they can’t use it, it’s not going to be a good tool,” he said. For the hospital’s proprietary security force, Vance said their training is set up like the police academy with multiple requirements that each officer must fulfill.
In addition to the eyes and ears of officers and other staff members, Vance said the security department also relies on its video surveillance and access control system to help identify suspicious activity and behavior patterns. When patterns develop, the security department often deploys undercover officers. As part of this undercover effort, the hospital deployed a communication system using Mirage lapel mics from Pryme that is integrated with its two-way radios. While the system helped officers stay in touch, it also reduced the amount of noise from radios and other communication devices used by officers that were often distracting in a quiet hospital environment. “Nurses and doctors are happy now that we’re quieter walking through the hospital. It’s been an extra bonus,” he said. The mics has been incorporated hospital-wide.
In addition, the hospital has also deployed remote monitoring capabilities of its various security systems. Supervisors now carry Android smartphones that they use to monitor video cameras in the hospitals instead of having to contact or visit the control room.
The hospital has also integrated its access control system with its video surveillance allowing security personnel to ensure that a person swiping their card is the same person registered to that badge.
In addition, the hospital has also upgraded its storage capabilities. “We recently added another terabyte on the system so now we have between 45 and 60 days of video,” he said. “We have servers and a wide highway for the servers to work on so there’s as much bandwidth as we need.”
The hospital is in the process of adding high-definition cameras to the system to improve image quality. Of the approximate 85 cameras in place, only about 15 percent are IP. While Vance admits the hospital has been slow to adopt IP, “it’s all that we’re specing now and we’re totally away from analog,” he said.
The hospital has also been able to save money by installing the majority of these upgrades itself. The systems are generally plug and play, he said, and it’s been extremely helpful to make friends with the IT department for assistance in setting up these systems. “Now we don’t have to call in a company or pay a company to come in and install cameras—our IT guys can do it,” he said. While eliminating the need for an integrator can be cost-effective, Vance said he still thinks there’s a role for integrators to play. “I think integrators need to partner with end users and try to find a way [to help] rather than getting upset,” he said. Integrators are often needed to provide consultations to security of IT departments, he said.
In terms of future technologies, Vance said he was excited about the prospect of video analytics. The hospital has tested several video analytic products, but found that the technology has not matured enough to actually install. Vance cited environmental challenges, such as thick fog, as a reason he wasn’t sold on analytics yet. Also, license plate readers could be very beneficial in a hospital setting, but during pilot tests he found that vehicles traveling at certain speeds weren’t being picked up by LPR devices.
And, like most security professionals, Vance said he’s working to show a return on investment for security installations. For example, the hospital recently assigned a dollar amount to the detection of time-card fraud. “Now we’ve come up with a savings … [to] prove our worth and then we can use that figure to buy more equipment,” he said.
For future investments in security technology, Vance said he looks forward to the day where the public-private partnership is strong enough that law enforcement realizes the value of private entities. “These cameras, especially equipped with analytics, can have a direct impact on law enforcement finding who they’re looking for,” he said. “Their family members are bound to get sick and come to the hospital eventually. I think another part that’s missing is for law enforcement to say ‘These guys at the hospital can help us.’”