Providence Hospitals Security Upgrade Offers High-Tech Functions that Cut Costs
Faced with an expensive security upgrade, Providence Hospitals chose to scrap its old system in favor of state-of-the-art technology that tied together its two hospital campuses, increased access control usability, and saved tens of thousands of dollars in the integration and installation costs.
The previous system was limited to just "getting authorized people in and out of secure doors," according to Jared Rapp, manager--security services, Providence Hospitals, which operates a six-story, 196-bed facility and eight campus buildings in downtown Columbia, S.C. and a second 56-bed facility on the city's northeast side. "There was little accountability, security officers continually struggled with the system's software usability, adding doors was expensive and upgrade costs paralleled those of a new cutting-edge system.
Therefore, the Providence security upgrade selection team chose the open-architecture system, Frontier™ Universe from Matrix Systems, Miamisburg, Ohio, which has developed a value-added reseller (VAR) network to perform its systems integration, staff training and localized 24/7 customer support services. The system offers the flexibility of both web browser and server-based operation. Its open architecture platform allows the integration of cost-saving wireless components, biometric readers, time and attendance equipment and high technology additions when the facilities expand.
"We were faced with replacing the old system's computers, controllers and software, and we had cost-effectiveness questions as to whether the proprietary nature of our existing system would allow integration of future cutting-edge equipment," said Rapp. "When we discovered the upgrade costs of tens of thousands of dollars were similar to installing a new state-of-the-art system with an open-architecture that would allow us to integrate more functions and technology, the decision was easy."
For example, Providence saved upwards of $50,000 when adding dozens of parking-lot video surveillance cameras and emergency call boxes because the Frontier Universe system is compatible with wireless communication equipment that significantly minimized hard wiring and eliminated trenching costs. The value-engineering creates video surveillance that's transmitted through a fully encrypted wireless-mesh system to Frontier Universe's server via the hospital's IP network. "A bonus was the minimal impact the wireless installation had on the hospital community, versus the confusion and lot closures trenching and hard-wiring would have required," said Rapp.
The dozens of parking lot cameras manufactured by Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., also required no conventional electric grid connections because photovoltaic (PV) solar cells power both the pole-mounted video cameras and emergency call station boxes. The wireless mesh network is manufactured by Matrix Systems partner, ClearSite Communications, Sarasota, Fla. Video switches and digital video recorders are provided by Toshiba Security Products, Irvine, Calif. Rath Security, Sussex, Wis., provided the call boxes and PV solar cells.
Unifying Security Under One SystemThe access control system now consists of a server, a security workstation for each hospital, a credential station, and dozens of subsystem controllers that control more than 50 doors. All equipment at both hospitals and their auxiliary buildings is tied together via the hospital's IP network and Frontier Universe software. The system is scalable to hundreds of doors, but more importantly, it includes difficult-to-integrate peripherals, such as human-resources (HR) software, video surveillance and other security-related segments. Conversely, upgrading the old system offered no guarantee of the two hospitals' unification, the integration of 32 cameras, digital recording, and other features Providence wanted.
For example, integrating Providence's HR management software by Lawson, St. Paul, Minn., into Frontier Universe, without labor-intensive database re-creation or refilling, was another step toward an organization-wide, unified approach to access control. HR managers continue to use software that's familiar to them but now the streamlined employee enrollment and termination process is immediately accounted for at door access points through Frontier Universe software. Rapp said the new accountability capabilities will also be helpful in locating doctors or employees in medical emergencies.
UsabilityThe previous access control system used software with navigation tools that weren't intuitive or easy to navigate for special tasks. Therefore duties such as creating an audit trail report on a specific area or employee badge, typically required vendor customer service. Conversely, the new software now easily guides system administrators through audit trail reports with setup wizards, according to Rapp, who relied on referrals from a sister hospital and 25-year Matrix Systems customer, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, Cleveland, during the vendor selection process.
Another usability improvement enables workstation officers to lock down the facilities within seconds during an emergency. Previously, security officers had to physically lock each door individually if a lockdown had occurred. Workstation officers also have new commands at their fingertips such as unlocking shipping doors and observing deliveries via video cameras.
Culminating Many Tasks Under One BadgeThe new system accommodates a variety of functions from one unified employee ID badge versus the multiple cards employees needed because of the previous system's fragmentation. "It was easier to authorize an employee for a new area by making a new card versus the more efficient method of just adding a new authorization level to the existing card," Rapp said.
Employees also use the same access badge, with barcode additions from the hospital's Digital Identification Solutions (DIS-USA), Greenville, S.C., badge printer, to log data into the time and attendance system manufactured by Kronos, Chemsford, Mass. The barcodes also allow employees to deduct cafeteria and gift shop purchase deductions. Both the existing time and attendance system and the credential station were integrated into the Frontier Universe platform.
With more than 3,000 badge holders at the two hospital campuses, Providence immediately reaped a worker-productivity dividend when converting from magnetic stripe to the more reliable proximity format, Rapp said. The hospitals also expect a quick payback in conversion costs from eliminating premature badge failures associated with magnetic-stripe swiping.
The post-installation customer support trained Rapp and three sergeants to use and customize the new system's software. In turn, Rapp and his supervisors gained sufficient expertise to train 18 workstation security officers on the system's operational basics.
One requirement Rapp was adamant about was the new system's scalability and compatibility for future equipment. Providence is planning multi-million dollar projects that include a four-story patient-care addition to the downtown location, and the northeast hospital's new one-story intensive care unit and two-story support staff office building.
Providence's new access control system will also accommodate new technology as it becomes available. Biometrics will also play an important future role and will be integrated easily into Frontier Universe, as demonstrated by the incorporation of Providence's existing FingerKey® DX-2000 by Schlage Lock Co., Colorado Springs, Colo., used for the IT room entry. In the future, Providence would like to add more biometric fingerprint readers with anti-microbial features in four operating room entries, which will help minimize microbial infiltration because staff members won't need to handle badges.
Providence Hospitals has prepared its facilities with an access control system that can grow in parallel with its future expansions and expects to reap rewards of employee and patron safety as well as ease of use.