Today’s hospitals and clinics are under increasing pressure to cut costs, while maintaining vital services that are critical to patient care and staff safety. At the same time, these healthcare facilities are increasingly susceptible to personal and property security threats. In this white paper, we will discuss some of the challenges facing hospitals and clinics in ensuring the safety of patients, staff, and property, as well as new ways of meeting these challenges.
According to the Joint Commission
Safety and security risks are present in most healthcare environments. These risks affect all individuals in the organization—patients, visitors, and [staff] …. Examples of security risks include workplace violence, theft, infant abduction, and unrestricted access to medications. Security incidents are caused by individuals from either outside or inside the hospital. (source: Joint Commission EC.02.01.01)
A number of factors have contributed to chronically inadequate security in many modern hospitals and clinics. One of the primary challenges is overworked staff. Budget cuts in both for-profit and non-profit hospitals have led to staff reductions, as well as problems attracting highly qualified new hires. Remaining employees are typically overworked, including security personnel, and this leads to security lapses.
Another problem is poorly trained staff. Given the variations in local labor markets, healthcare facilities may have no choice but to hire inexperienced security personnel or, just as bad, shift staff from other departments to security without adequate training.
The problem of insufficient training can be potentially serious in an environment where emotions often run high, and both patients and family members may require anything from verbal intervention to physical restraint. Emergency rooms present their own specific challenges—especially in urban areas—including substance-abusing patients and violent patients and visitors.
Many hospitals and clinics are addressing these challenges by turning to private security firms. Outsourcing security instead of managing in-house staffs has a number of advantages, including greater flexibility and lower cost.
Private security contractors can adjust staffing levels rapidly to meet hospitals’ changing needs. Private contractors can expand staffing quickly when needed, given their ready access to large pools of experienced personnel and relative flexibility in negotiating with employees. While local hospitals are usually limited to local labor markets, specialty security contractors typically have access to trained, experienced workers who are willing to relocate.
Hospitals that use contract security personnel also generally gain staff with comprehensive training, which is key to avoiding lawsuits. “Claims that healthcare organization have failed to provide necessary training are used with much success in lawsuits, especially those involving weapons, physical force, false arrests, and civil rights issues.” (source: IAHSS presentation).
Most security contractors have rigorous standards for their hires, covering everything from physical condition to situational judgment. Security firms screen new hires for the characteristics that they have identified as important to a high-quality security employee, and they also require ongoing employee training.
The majority of private security firms are owned and managed by individuals with strong security backgrounds. Hence, these firms have higher standards of professionalism and more up-to-date industry knowledge than in-house security departments. Moreover, professional security firm managers have better resources for screening out unqualified applicants, applicants with criminal histories, and so on.
$ Reducing Liability
Hospitals and clinics are finding that outsourced security functions can help reduce the organization’s liability in cases of lawsuits filed by both patients and employees. In many areas, legal damages are not covered by healthcare facilities’ insurance policies and must be paid by the hospital or clinic.
Most security firms are bonded and will indemnify their clients against legal action stemming from incidents involving their personnel. Moreover, security contractors—not the healthcare facility—are responsible for any employment-related issues involving their employees.
Healthcare facilities need to maintain minimum levels of security despite budget pressures. Every facility is unique; however, many hospitals and clinics could potentially benefit from using outsourced security personnel. In doing so, they can achieve lower costs and higher quality personnel, thereby creating a more secure environment for patients and staff, and generating a healthier bottom line.