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Case Studies

Technology Integrators Merge IT at Hospital With Physical Security Systems

Traditionally, security systems were installed as independent systems by security integrators. However, the continuing advancement of IP-based technology now place that task squarely at the feet of technology integrators with an extensive knowledge and background in IT. BTI Communications Group is an integrator that provided a needed upgrade solution.

Case Study

Company:

Hospital

Location:

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Objective:

For Los Angeles-based AltaMed, a 46-site health clinic network that serves nearly a million patient visits annually, managing the access control cards for employees required four full-time employees in 2016. With so many sites, there could be 100 new hires and 25 people leaving the company or being reassigned in a single week. However, the existing system was not fully integrated, which soon drew the attention of the CIO and Facilities Manager.

Solution:

“The CIO reviewed the system and said, ‘Wait a minute, we installed this wonderful database company-wide to manage all this,” recalls Eric Brackett, President of BTI. “But it doesn’t communicate with any of the physical security systems that were installed? And why do we need four people to manage the access cards?” After submitting a proposal, BTI was ultimately selected to install and manage the CCTV, access control and burglar alarms for all 46 sites.

Results:

The system was integrated with the security cameras so that each time staff entered or left a secure area, the camera footage was bookmarked for easy reference. “If somebody comes into this hospital, we can see the time they entered and verify who they are,” says Stanley Horn, Facilities Director at Olympia Medical Center. “We can track them with the cameras and quickly bring up a history. It is really great for security.”

Traditionally, security cameras and access control systems were installed as independent systems by security integrators – even in the early days of IP-based devices. However, the continuing advancement of IP-based technology as well as the inherent cybersecurity vulnerabilities of physical security systems now place that task squarely at the feet of technology integrators with an extensive knowledge and background in IT.

By entrusting this task to integrators with an extensive knowledge of the available products and component parts of security systems and how they can be interconnected, there can be tremendous added value at facilities such as hospitals, says Stanley Horn, Facilities Director at Olympia Medical Center, an Alecto Healthcare Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

“I’ve worked in other facilities where one vendor puts in the security cameras and another vendor puts in the card key access and the two are not integrated,” explains Mr. Horn. In addition to some aspects of security, his responsibilities range from building engineering to housekeeping, bio-med and all construction projects.

For today’s healthcare facilities, this is unacceptable given the potential safety risk to patients and staff, the potential theft of medical equipment or medications and other security concerns.

“You can’t have [unauthorized] people wandering through the facility, and if anyone can just walk in and out, there could be an issue,” says Horn. “So, it’s extremely important to have a comprehensive, integrated security system.”

As part of his duties, Horn worked with other staff at the hospital to upgrade the existing security system, which included a card access system and some older analog security cameras.

“The key card access was installed by somebody that really was not familiar with what they were doing, and so all it did was open the door,” explains Horn. “You can do the same thing with a key.”

For the upgrade, Horn reached out to BTI Communications Group, a technology convergence provider serving the healthcare, logistics and aerospace sectors. The company acts as a single source provider of complex phone (VoIP), physical security and network systems, down to installation of wiring and conduit.

According to Horn, the security upgrade project was completed in two phases. BTI first worked with Olympia Medical Center to install new digital security cameras in critical areas, including the emergency room, while also integrating the existing analog cameras installed outdoors.

“We did not want to have to throw everything out that was already installed,” says Horn.

In the second phase of the upgrade, a more advanced access system was installed. The system was integrated with the security cameras so that each time staff entered or left a secure area, the camera footage was bookmarked for easy reference.

“Now, from a security standpoint, if somebody comes into this hospital, we can see the time they entered and verify who they are,” says Horn. “We can track them with the cameras and quickly bring up a history. It is really great for security, and it really moved the hospital up a notch.”

The benefits of an integrated access control system with the IT network, including the HR database, also has advantages when coordinating changes in employee status. If an employee is terminated, for example, the system automatically deactivates the employee’s keycard. If that same employee has remote access to the security cameras, the network can disable the account immediately.

For Los Angeles-based AltaMed, a 46-site health clinic network that serves nearly a million patient visits annually, managing the access control cards for employees required four full-time employees in 2016. With so many sites, there could be 100 new hires and 25 people leaving the company or being reassigned in a single week.

However, the existing system was not fully integrated, which soon drew the attention of the CIO, Facilities Manager, Safety Coordinator and VP of Administration.

“The CIO reviewed the system and said, ‘Wait a minute, we installed this wonderful database company-wide to manage all this,” recalls Eric Brackett, President of BTI. “But it doesn’t communicate with any of the physical security systems that were installed? And why do we need four people to manage the access cards?”

After submitting a proposal, BTI was ultimately selected to install and manage the CCTV, access control and burglar alarms for all 46 sites.

“Today, they are still growing rapidly, but they don’t require any people in the organization to manage any of the physical security,” says Brackett.

Brackett says the role of the technology integrator does not end once the system is installed. Proactive monitoring should be employed, so that the system actively oversees technology performance to identify anomalies even before a malfunction occurs. Problems are addressed efficiently, often without the customer even knowing about it. When site visits are required, the monitoring system dispatches an engineer without interrupting the customer.

“Our 24-hour monitoring system sends me alarms by email, text, and phone. I am always in the know whether I am at work or remote, and I only have to deal with one vendor,” says Charles Lomboy, Director of Physical Plant Management at AltaMed.

“We trust them as the subject matter experts on security,” adds Lomboy. “They surveyed our offices and recommended the areas that needed improved security. They also listened and responded to our needs as they relate to patient rooms, medication cabinets, entrances and exits, etc.

Managing Costs
Although technology integrators sound like a high-end service with a commensurate price tag, that is not necessarily the case. An integrated approach with the best-of-breed solutions on the market delivers economies of efficiency and scale that are often passed on to the customer.

“If you go to a vendor in commercial security that sells a specific brand, they may try to interest you in their products that are currently being promoted,” says Brackett. “It might not end up being a fully operational solution to the business problem they are attempting to solve.”

Lower price solutions, including security cameras from overseas providers, can also often cost more if a hack or other breach occurs.

“From our experience, many customers are not aware how products, especially those purchased based on price, can bring embedded vulnerabilities into a network,” said Brackett. “Cameras manufactured in China, for example, have susceptibilities that are known to hackers. Major breaches have already occurred with what we call pre-hacked technology.”

Even technologies that don’t carry the risk of being pre-hacked can become vulnerable when users fail to fully implement the security features on the connected network. Fortunately, a technology integrator with a background in IT can implement advanced cyber security processes to block viruses and hackers from destructive solutions as well.

Finally, Brackett says that when engaging with a technology provider, it is also important that customers know what they are paying for with contracts that clearly spell out each installed product, feature, and support item or service they are purchasing.

“Technology integrators should bear the cost of providing an initial assessment of their needs,” says Brackett. “The bid should itemize the costs for equipment and support. It should also anticipate future upgrade paths in order to provide transparency to future expenses. In this way, a customer knows their initial, ongoing and upgrade costs and can budget accordingly.”