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Visitor badge program a hit at South Carolina hospital

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July 1, 2010

Software system helps maintain security

Sometimes, a fairly simple step can help increase security and at the same time make security’s job easier. Douglas Rhodin, director of security and central transportation at Beaufort (SC) Memorial Hospital (BMH), learned that lesson after installing Sisco’s FAST-PASS® security badge system. Rhodin says the new system is quicker, easier, and better than the paper visitor badge system the 199-bed hospital previously used.

BMH is a member of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety. At one of its conferences, Rhodin noticed the system, and then heard about the system’s benefits again at a South Carolina Hospital Association meeting. After learning how it might help BMH stay Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) compliant, BMH decided to update its paper pass system, which involved writing a pass and keeping duplicate hard copies. With an electronic system, BMH saw an opportunity to make security easier, and cut out more paperwork. The system makes it possible to know who and where everyone in the hospital is supposed to be during late hours. 

How it works

Each visitor is asked for a license or government-issued ID, which is scanned into the system. Certain information from the ID is then automatically filled in for the new badge. A picture is taken of the visitor and more information is manually entered, such as to what department the visitor is heading. The information is automatically stored in a database. An eight-hour expiration time and date is also printed on the badge. If visitors need to stay longer, they can ask for a new badge. The entire process takes about two minutes for new visitors and about 30 seconds for returning visitors, as some of their information is already stored in the hospital system. 

The visitor badge system is used only after 9 p.m. in the ED, which is the only unlocked entrance to the building at that time of night. The system can also flag individuals who may be a problem.

“If a visitor in the past has created a disturbance or were asked to leave, we can put a ‘deny entry’ on them so the next time they come and try to enter their name into the system, a flag will pop up prompting staff to deny entry,” says Rhodin. “And we can put detailed information on the reason why. Maybe they are denied entry to the fifth floor but they are allowed to go to the ICU. And it can state why they were denied and for how long they were denied.” 

How it helps compliance

Knowing who is moving around inside the facility and why helps BMH fulfill The Joint Commission’s emergency management requirements, says Rhodin. “If asked, we can print out a report of who is in the hospital after hours,” he says. (For more information on Joint Commission standard EM.02.02.05, see “Complying with EM.02.02.05” at right.)

“This way, we know where visitors belong and they are not walking all over the place,” says Rhodin. “We know the patients because they’re registered in our system, and we know our employees because they clock in and out in our system, and this is a way to know who our visitors are in our system so, at any given time, we’ll know which patients are here, which visitors are here, and which employees are here. So one of the Joint Commission requirements is who is in our building, especially after hours. It’s extremely wonderful. It makes life so much easier.”

How it was implemented

Installation of the software took about 12 hours and included adding setting-specific information, such as department names. The badges were designed by hospital staff and include the hospital’s logo. 

To implement the badges and educate staff on the new system, security made rounds to day and night shift nurses to let them know about the new system, and an announcement was made in the hospital’s internal newsletter as well as on the hospital website. 

How it was received

Although at the time of publication Rhodin and the hospital had only been using the system for a couple of days, the results and feedback have been positive. 

“I personally thought I was going to have to argue with people about the ID, but they don’t have a problem with it,” says Rhodin. When visitors do ask, they are assured that it is simply for safety. Rhodin explains that this way, hospital officials will know visitors’ location in the event of an emergency and, if necessary, can find them and help them exit the building. 

“They like it, it makes them feel more secure,” says Rhodin, adding that staff members also enjoy the badges and have a better sense of security.

“Now they know where visitors are supposed to be as well,” he says.

Complying with EM.02.02.05

Editor’s note: The following excerpt is from The Emergency Management Compliance Manual: A Guide to the Joint Commission Standards, by Thomas J. Huser, MS, CHSP.

EM.02.02.05 requires that a facility is safe and secure even during an emergency. This standard covers provisions for maintaining a safe environment for patients, visitors, and staff during the hectic activities normally associated with a disaster. The hospital must control access to the building, as well as movement of those within the building. This will be a daunting task with limited resources and little, if any, help from outside agencies, at least during the initial response to a disaster.

The hospital’s emergency management plan must describe how the movement of personnel within the facility is controlled during an emergency. This is to prevent theft, drug diversions, and kidnappings. Unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of the confusion of an emergency for their personal gain, so you must plan for this type of activity. 

One way to accomplish this is to issue temporary ID badges that are color-coded to indicate where individuals may go within the facility. If that person were in another location, staff would know to question his or her unauthorized presence in that area simply by noting the color of the person’s badge (or whether they have one).

And remember, the activation of your disaster plan does not override the importance of safety and the ability of people to exit the building in the event of a fire.




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