By Mark Allen
Article originally published via the June 2021 issue of International Security Journal.
The past 18 months were brutal on healthcare. Back in the early parts of 2020, few anticipated the damage that followed the initial coronavirus outbreak. Yet, at the coalface of the pandemic continuing to rage at differing levels of severity around the world, medical institutions continue to be tested to their limits. From global shortages of personal protective equipment to sudden, unpredictable surges in demand for ventilated and intensive care beds, healthcare professionals rise to the tremendously daunting challenge, the nature and magnitude of which was relatively unknown until it arrived. A lot has been learned in a short space of time. Thanks to the ingenuity of scientists the world over, we now know in quite astonishing detail how the virus transmits, mutates, and affects particular demographic groups differently.
Meanwhile, 2021 is rapidly defining itself as the year of the vaccination. Developed at unprecedented speeds, sites are dispensing effective vaccines the world over, with efforts saving a huge number of lives.
It is due to these endeavors that many countries are emerging into something akin to normality. With societal restrictions lifting, economies are showing signs of recovery, albeit tentative ones given that many sectors, such as travel and tourism, still remain hamstrung. The pandemic shines a spotlight on how little we consider who or what is protecting the very places that help to protect us.
Safeguarding healthcare with VMS
Hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical centers face their own threats on a daily basis.
These include invisible threats such as the rise in cybercrime, as opportunistic digital criminals seek to take advantage of vulnerabilities during the pandemic. According to one cybersecurity firm (Check Point), cyberattacks targeted at healthcare institutions grew by as much as 45% between November 2020 and January 2021. Ransomware (including the infamous Ryuk ransomware originating from Russia), DDoS attacks, botnets, and remote code execution are the most frequent types of activity aimed at hospitals.
Healthcare institutions also face a number of physical threats, such as access, use, and theft of pharmaceutical items, infant abduction, and breaches of “hot labs” containing nuclear medicines and other radiation hazards.
Workplace violence is another significant challenge facing healthcare settings, especially hospitals. A study by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation found acts of violence committed against U.S. hospital staff by patients and visitors account for 85% of all assaults and aggravated assaults in 2020, occurring at a rate of 1.5 per 100 employees. Overall, the violent crime rate at U.S. hospitals remains consistent since 2018 after a 40% increase over the rates recorded in 2015 and 2016. The study also revealed notable occurrences of other crime categories, including vandalism, burglary and theft, motor vehicle theft, and disorderly conduct.
Part of the answer to this problem lies in video surveillance. As well as deterring and identifying offenders, it can provide peace of mind to patients, customers, and staff at healthcare premises such as hospitals and pharmacies. It is a tried and tested security technique with more than one billion surveillance cameras set to be in use around the world by the end of this year.
According to the UK’s College of Policing’s Crime Reduction Toolkit, these cameras prevent an average of 16 crimes for every 100 attempted. Meanwhile, a detailed study from South Korea found video surveillance systems led to reductions in robberies and theft by more than 47%. Crucially, these systems are only getting smarter at detecting and deterring criminal activity. Let us take video management systems (VMS) as an example. These platforms enable operators to not only manage a network of cameras, but also leverage additional capabilities such as real-time occupancy analysis. In the case of Identiv, Velocity Vision is an IP VMS with an open-platform design that integrates access control systems, analytics software, and various hardware devices.
Peace of mind, in real time
People, data, devices, and drugs in hospitals and pharmacies require integrated monitoring 24 hours a day. This can present complex security challenges, including managing multiple access points, including high-security rooms housing sensitive patient information and medicines. Security solutions must therefore integrate with video surveillance and identification systems to deliver maximum impact.
By monitoring around the clock with an integrated VMS, staff can respond to incidents rapidly. The Velocity Vision platform delivers action-oriented reporting that enables hospital security personnel to make critical decisions about risk mitigation in real time. It is an end-to-end solution, combining managed access control, intrusion detection, building automation, and IP streaming into a single interface that provides added safety for patients, staff, and visitors, as well as covering critical liability and compliance risk controls.
In short, this ensures the wrong people are kept out while seamlessly letting the right people into healthcare environments. Another important pandemic-era requirement is the need for social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. During the course of 2021 so far, we see mutations of the virus enabling it to become more effective at passing from human to human, with new strains catching many countries off guard. Take the recent surge in India, for example. The variant there is spreading frighteningly quickly through major population centers and presents a greater challenge to keep under control.
This has important implications for healthcare settings, where already sick and vulnerable patients are found in high numbers, some being treated for coronavirus and posing potential health hazards to staff, visitors, and other patients. Curbing infection spread in these environments is, understandably, a major priority. Integrated video surveillance systems play a key role in ensuring hospitals and pharmacies adhere to social distancing measures and reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Real-time monitoring and analysis of people in certain spaces provides essential insight into areas where social distancing is not always maintained, giving decision makers the information they need to take immediate action, such as changing how people move around a building. Whether it is assisting in the ongoing battle to beat coronavirus or providing healthcare staff and hospital patients and visitors peace of mind that they are in a protected space, real-time video surveillance plays a leading role in the realm of healthcare security.