Access Control, Safety, Security

How Hospitals Can Create Safer Environments for Patients, Staff, and Visitors

Step into any hospital or healthcare facility and you’ll be surrounded not only by clinical, administrative, and operational staff, but also by patients, visitors, and vendor representatives. With so many people traversing the hospital daily, protecting them can feel quite challenging.

Until recently, almost anyone could enter a hospital with relative ease. Today, while many professional office buildings require check-in and badges, some healthcare facilities have not adopted similar protocols. This is particularly concerning considering the growing increase in workplace violence in healthcare.

According to data from the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), the assault rate at U.S. hospitals increased more than 23% from 2019 to 2020. Reports of assault have continued to rise since then, spurring the American Hospital Association in March 2022 to submit a request to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting legislation that would protect healthcare workers from assault and intimidation.

According to a new survey from Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX), nearly three in five Americans (60%) report being concerned about their safety or the safety of loved ones in a hospital or medical facility (defined as “safety from physical harm, injury, or danger caused by a person”). This fact, coupled with the survey finding that two in five Americans simply don’t feel safe entering a hospital or medical facility today, should inspire further reflection and action. Other takeaways from the survey included:

  • 63% of Americans are concerned about someone unauthorized walking the halls of a hospital, and two in five Americans (40%), or more than 100 million people, don’t feel safe entering a hospital and/or medical facility today.
  • Almost nine in 10 Americans (88%) believe that as a matter of safety, keeping track of every hospital visitor is essential.
  • 75% of Americans say that hospitals should do a better job making sure their facilities are safe and secure.

The survey also queried the public about their views on the connection between the rise in incidents of workplace violence in healthcare and the challenges impacting healthcare professionals. GHX’s survey data showed almost 70% of Americans believe that if nurses felt safer, they might not be leaving the profession in large numbers. Furthermore, 66% of Americans agree nurses and other frontline healthcare workers are more likely than those in other professions to be victims of workplace violence. And 82% of Americans believe more state or federal action should be taken to safeguard healthcare workers.

Given Americans’ concerns about workplace violence as evidenced in this survey, it is more vital than ever for hospital leadership to create a safer, more secure environment for staff, patients, and visitors and support policies that adopt a zero-tolerance approach to workplace violence.

But combatting workplace violence is a complicated issue requiring a multitude of strategies. One strategy is monitoring and controlling facility access. However, an overreliance on manual processes can become a significant headwind for health systems seeking to achieve this goal. With hospitals already suffering from staffing shortages, the importance of increased technology adoption to modernize access processes has never been more apparent. 

Fortunately, modern visitor access and vendor credentialing management solutions that can help to reduce manual friction points and streamline facility access are emerging. For instance, an integrated kiosk-based system that digitally captures information during the check-in process and can utilize internal watchlists to help flag visitors who are previous offenders or sanctioned vendors may be a required first stop for any visitor or vendor to a hospital facility.

These kiosks help healthcare organizations achieve a recommended state of “no badge, no entry” into a facility. This policy should be adopted across a health system, embedded within the organization’s culture, and consistently supported and reinforced by its leadership team. Further, having robust vendor credentialing and visitor management processes in place is critical to helping reassure the public that healthcare facilities are invested in creating safer, more secure environments.

According to the GHX data, 88% of survey respondents say individuals in a hospital or medical facility should feel as safe there as they do in airports and/or on airplanes. Just as the airline industry institutionalized heightened safety and security protocols over the past two decades, the healthcare industry has opportunities to increase safety measures as well. By instituting a robust credentialing compliance and visitor management programs, hospitals and health systems can help earn confidence in the ability to deliver a safer experience while in their facilities.

Chrystie Leonard is General Manager of GHX Vendormate.