Considerations for Implementing Hospital Staff, Visitor, and Vendor Physical Access- control Systems

April 15, 2019 | Special HTA Reports


Physical access control is the means by which security personnel grant or deny people access to a healthcare facility, restricted areas in the facility (e.g., emergency room, maternity area, pediatric area, intensive care units, pharmacy, parking areas), or physical information technology assets. Technology developments, accreditation requirements, and regulation by various organizations are driving implementation of staff, visitor, and vendor physical access-control systems in healthcare facilities. The technology can be complex, and healthcare facilities must make decisions regarding design, administration, and use of these systems. Specific challenges to implementing access-control systems in healthcare facilities include the following:

Many healthcare facilities are linking hospital staff ID badges to access-control systems to permit only authorized personnel to enter and to limit access to restricted areas. Card-based access-control systems also permit quick lockdown of buildings and restricted areas. These systems typically operate using a proximity card that can be read without inserting it into a reader, a magnetic stripe card, or smart card technology. Such open-architecture, contactless smart cards with microchips offer added features: they can store, protect, and modify information and permit information sharing and exchange. Smart cards verify an individual's identify by using static and dynamic passwords, digital certificates and private keys, biometrics, or photos. The open-architecture design allows users to customize access-control applications. (For more information, see the articles by Geissler Timme and Lorenzi and product/service website links in Table 1.)

Healthcare facilities encounter many visitors, extended hours of entry, and many first-time visitors who do not know where they are going. Some facilities monitor access by using paper guest logs, which have legibility, confidentiality, and efficiency issues. Some facilities that recognize the need to more carefully monitor who enters their buildings and why are using secure visitor management software that screens, badges, and tracks every visitor entering the building. Visitor registration/check-in informs security personnel who is inside the facility at a given time. A standardized visitor procedure also helps screen visitors for contagious diseases (e.g., colds, influenza). According to the article, Managing Points of Access, visitor check-in areas “should be at all public entrances to the facility and may be staffed with volunteers, customer service representatives and security personnel. "

An article on hospital visitor-management systems lists the following benefits of these systems:

Control of vendor access is also important “to ensure regulatory compliance, cut down on unauthorized interaction with medical and other staff, and enhance patient and staff safety," according to an article by Jarousse and Hoppszallern. Vendor credentialing, which may involve verification of certain immunizations, certifications such as CPR, and completion of comprehensive training, “is growing more popular as governing bodies and organizations put pressure on hospitals to protect themselves from potential risks," according to an article by Fritz.

Vendor access management systems may require vendors to preregister and schedule visits. To verify preregistration and authorization to visit, vendors must check into the facility at a kiosk or use a mobile app to check in via their smartphones. Vendors receive a temporary photo ID badge that defines which areas in the...

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