Three out of four American hospitals have found it more challenging over the past two years to maintain security in their facilities, and 85 percent are employing aggressive management training to help clinical and nonclinical staff deal with security threats. Moreover, most hospitals have increased their security budgets to upgrade security systems and capabilities whether through adding equipment or boosting staffing levels.

Much of these efforts are aimed at developing more effective strategies to combat and prevent violence in hospitals, but hospital leaders also are paying closer attention to and funneling more resources into cybersecurity and protecting electronic health record information. For instance, 89 percent of hospitals are conducting cybersecurity risk analysis at least once a year. To aid in this effort, the American Hospital Association has developed resources to help hospitals prevent cyberattacks and protect patient information.

These key findings are from a recently conducted survey of hospital facilities, security, safety and risk management directors. The survey, conducted by H&HN’s sister publication Health Facilities Management and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, was conducted in June and drew 255 responses.

As respondents made clear in their verbatim comments, many organizations are facing greater security challenges — often related to patients with behavioral issues and opioid addictions. Overall, 51 percent of respondents reported an increase in patient/family violence against staff in the emergency department while 44 percent reported an increase in violence against staff outside the ED.

Respondents also noted that fighting these and other threats is complicated by hospitals’ traditionally tight budgets. Nevertheless, hospitals and health systems are responding aggressively to the challenges of maintaining a safe and secure environment.

For instance, 78 percent of respondents reported that their facility conducts a facilities security survey at least annually, while 97 percent have workplace-violence policies and 95 percent have active-shooter policies. Meanwhile, almost half use a combination of in-house and outside security firms to conduct security/risk assessments.

While most organizations (54 percent) boosted their security budgets for 2016, that typically did not translate into an increase in security staffing. In fact, 69 percent of respondents did not plan to add new security staff this year.

Experts who reviewed the data noted that these numbers likely are an indicator that security managers may need to work on making a more effective case that more staff will reduce risk. Karim Vellani, CPP, CSC, president of independent security consultant firm Threat Analysis Group LLC, notes that security directors need to be tracking incidents carefully to ensure that security threats are not underreported.

Bob Kehoe is a senior editor with Hospitals & Health Networks.