Amid increasing security risks and growing pressure from regulatory agencies — including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — a vast majority of hospitals have adopted training programs on managing aggressive behavior in order to de-escalate security situations before they erupt.
A marked increase in such training is one of the key takeaways from the 2016 Hospital Security Survey conducted by H&HN's sister publication Health Facilities Management and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, which is part of the American Hospital Association.
In the June survey, 75 percent of the 255 respondents say that maintaining security has become more challenging over the past two years and, at the same time, 85 percent are using aggressive behavior management training. Another 5 percent plan to implement such training in the next year.
Identifying behavior that could lead to escalated violence is one of the first steps to preventing emergency incidents, says Chad Beebe, deputy executive director of advocacy for ASHE. “However, it requires many other security protocols to be in place,” Beebe says. “The more people who are able to identify possible situations, the more likely a preventive measure can be deployed.”
It's common for hospitals to create the programs in-house and tailor them to their needs. For example, a facility may believe the danger level is higher if security officers are inside a patient’s room. Working in tandem with security officers, those hospitals are training clinical staff to de-escalate the situation.
Because security tends to be incident-driven, training is a proactive way to keep staff ahead of the curve instead of playing catch-up after the fact, says Tom Smith, president of Healthcare Security Consultants Inc. and former president of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety.
“Many hospitals spend a lot of time and energy responding to emergency incidents after they happen,” Smith says. “It is very important to have plans and training in place for these types of incidents, but first we should focus on prevention. By this I mean effective workplace violence policies and procedures and a trained multidisciplinary threat assessment team.”
Staffing levels an issue
Hospitals are doing a good job of putting those security protocols in place, the survey shows. Seventy-eight percent conduct a physical facilities security assessment at least annually, while 97 percent have workplace violence policies, and 95 percent have active-shooter policies. Almost half are using a combination of in-house and outside security firms to conduct security/risk assessments.
Hospitals continue to put resources into another critical component — technology. Most are using systems like access control and digital video surveillance, while a growing number plan to invest in the next two years in visitor management systems, electronic lockdown from a central location and radio-frequency identification for tracking equipment, supplies and medication. Some hospitals (25 percent) are starting to experiment with biometrics authentication, an access control/identification system used to protect sensitive areas such as the pharmacy.
Click here to read the full report from our sister magazine, Health Facilities Management.