FM Articles

Innovative Access Control Solutions Reduce Loss & Boost Morale


If you manage a hospital facility, you already know that theft is a serious problem. Recent figures suggest that hospitals lose, on average, $4,000 per bed per year. While many argue that the figure is too low, almost nobody suggests it is exaggerated.

What you may not know is that it is relatively easy to lower that figure dramatically by investing in modern lock solutions. By taking a strategic approach to upgrading access control solutions at key points throughout your buildings, you can significantly reduce the amount of money walking out the doors of your hospital in the form of scrubs, medications, syringes and other supplies.

You can also keep surgical equipment and supplies more secure by placing them in cabinets that can only be accessed by those who have been authorized. Keeping medical records private – whether they are stored electronically or on paper in traditional files – is another huge benefit delivered by a sophisticated, yet functional locking solution.

There are added benefits, though, that may not be quite as obvious. Have you considered, for example, that wireless access control solutions that use the credentialing or badging protocols you already have in place can actually improve morale among the employees upon whom your hospital’s reputation for quality patient care depends? Sophisticated lock solutions on cabinets, lockers, servers and other storage products can also help your hospital stay in compliance with standards set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Extending Security Inward
At hospitals around the world, innovation is coming inside. The sophisticated solutions that are evident on the exterior of a hospital, such as up-to-date locks, access control technology used to secure parking facilities and automated (and in many cases intuitive) emergency entrances are being deployed deeper within the buildings.

The goals and objectives are the same. Internal doorways and other openings must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. They must protect people and supplies by restricting access to them; at the same time, they must provide access quickly and easily to those who are authorized. And, whether it is a doorway that leads to an ICU or a nurse server where medications are stored, the interactions people have with those openings must be transparent no matter how much security is attached to them.

Authorized personnel should be able to obtain access on all levels—from controlled floors, units and rooms all the way down to the doors on storage cabinets – with a minimal amount of effort. After all, hospitals do not employ healthcare professionals to have to stop and think about how to get through a doorway: They employ them to help patients get better.

The Challenge: Help Deliver HealthcareAccess
The fact of the matter is that losses can occur at nearly every point within a hospital, from the diversion of medications and surgical supplies to the disappearance of personal items such as cellphones and tablets that may be removed from a room when the patient is sleeping or medicated when no one else is present.

The challenge, therefore, is complex. At one end of the spectrum, the hospital must keep as many points as secure as possible without compromising the efficiency required for a hospital to operate. At the other end, the hospital must remain compliant with ADA and a host of other regulations and standards.

One of the most effective and efficient ways of achieving such apparently disparate goals is to deploy solutions that leverage the badging or credentialing already used by the hospital. When that convergence takes place, the doors, hardware and related technology take on an important (though not immediately obvious) role in the mission of delivering healthcare.

Consider a nurse who has just arrived for his shift on Friday evening, for example. By combining the right hardware with the right technology, his photo ID badge becomes what grants him access to the sections of the building where he delivers the quality care for which the hospital that employs him is known.

Liberating a patient-facing clinician such as this nurse from the often arcane business of memorizing several passwords and codes is a significant step forward in the march toward empowering employees to deliver a consistently superior level of care – resulting in improved patient satisfaction levels.

But this is only the beginning.

By creating discrete access points determined by an employee badge or other easily accessible credential, updated locks and hardware solutions can help improve the morale of your workforce.

Before relegating that fact to the “that’s nice” pile, consider this: Following the example of that nurse, the cost of replacing this professional is estimated to be 1.2 to 1.3 times the nurse’s annual salary. Not surprisingly, the more specialized the nurse – in critical care, for example – the higher the salary and subsequent cost of replacement.

The Integrity of Valued Employees
Making the routine of getting in and out of specific areas and storage devices more convenient for the staff whose contributions set your facility apart from its competitors is important. But automating access control at as many points as possible goes beyond mere convenience: It protects the integrity of your professional staff.

Typically, clinicians work within certain defined areas in a hospital. In order to foster improved communications with patients and maintain effective work processes, it is critical that healthcare facilities have clear, accurate and up-to-date information about who is where and at what time. How does this affect that $4,000 per bed per year that may get diverted out of the hospital in the form of theft?

One aspect for consideration is providing the appropriate access to those in clinical care, engineering or environmental services and other functions in the hospital. Proper authorization eliminates the potentially awkward position of one employee having to provide an access credential to someone, including other employees who are not authorized to access supplies or medications. By having access determined strictly by one’s badge, staff are no longer positioned to police one another. And more importantly, linking access control to each employee’s badge provides the hospital with functional control and the ability to produce audit trail reports. That goes a long way toward improving morale in the workplace, which is a big factor in staff retention.

Code Compliance
Finally, every part of a hospital – whether it is a fence along the rear perimeter or the latch on a doorway into an examining room – is subject to codes and standards. Those codes and standards are established and enforced by an array of organizations and authoritative bodies.

Any one of those organizations requiring an upgrade to door and locking solutions may represent a strategic investment. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, pays close attention to how doors latch and to how certain supplies are locked up in every hospital in order to maintain compliance with fire and life safety codes and other codes and standards.

CMS would consider finding a combination to a cabinet where post-surgery narcotics are stored written on the side of the very cabinet in question. Since CMS is the organization that determines worthiness and level of reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid Services, its assessment of security of supplies and controlled substances is of paramount importance.

Your hospital can employ innovative devices to secure spaces and supplies for the safety of all the populations in your continuum of care. Such functional innovation is vital to your hospital’s fiscal well-being today and well into the future.

Marilyn A. Collins is Director of Business Development, Healthcare Systems and Networks with ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. Visit to learn more.