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Standardization: A Growing Trend in Health Care Security
By Ken Bukowski

The standardization of health care protocols and procedures is an established practice that helps create a safer and more affordable patient culture. Today, the standardization trend is expanding as health care facilities nationwide are realizing the benefits of creating uniformity in nonclinical services, including physical security services.

Why are more health care institutions opting to streamline and centralize their security officer services? Consolidating security providers delivers consistency and improved service, as everyone functions under the same management structure and works toward a common goal. Health systems can experience cost-efficiencies, increased value, and a stronger, better coordinated approach to security that leads to enhanced patient and staff satisfaction.

• Cost savings with increased value and best practices: The standardization of nonclinical services positions health care institutions for greater cost savings and enhanced efficiencies. The health care institution’s buying power increases as standardization opens the market for a broader choice of service providers and greater access to more experienced security leaders. There also can be reduced risk and liability exposure as the same security measures are being practiced consistently at every location.

• Lean management structures favor controlled outsourcing: With management getting leaner and budgets getting tighter, it is imperative that more is done with less. Executives are leading multiple departments, often with many senior direct reports. Streamlining security operations and establishing a single point of contact creates efficiencies in service so that managers can spend less time managing their contract providers. A single security provider also allows for consistent invoicing, communications, and personnel management programwide.

• Consistency breeds confidence: When hospital staff members feel safe at work, they can focus all of their attention on patient care. Knowing that consistent procedures are in place and supported by the whole organization helps build confidence that their safety is your priority. Additionally, when personnel need to go to another location for training or meetings or to cover an open shift, they will already know the security procedures.

• Positive patient experiences: Implementing consistent procedures and establishing clear security expectations are critical. A standardized security program across an entire health system can lead to more positive experiences for patients and better patient satisfaction scores. A patient may go to the emergency department today and then follow up with a specialist at an affiliated facility next week. If standard security procedures are in place, that patient will know what to expect in terms of gaining access to the facilities and passing through security screening. Additionally, if they need assistance while in either facility, seeing the same uniformed security presence will be helpful.

• Freeing up valuable square footage: An incident command center assists hospitals in improving their emergency management planning and their response and recovery capabilities for planned and unplanned events. These centers take up considerable square footage and deploy a lot of expensive equipment. More health systems have moved to having one master command center to oversee multiple locations. The freed-up space becomes valuable real estate for patient care.

• Raising the bar on customer service: Visiting a hospital or emergency department often is a stressful experience because of unfamiliarity with the physical layout and the fear of potential medical procedures. Health care institutions increasingly are expanding security officers’ roles to include customer service. Standardized procedures allow security officers to be cross-trained to provide services at more than one location, helping to ensure that excellent customer service is provided every day at every location.

• Preventing workplace violence: Health care is an industry unlike any other, and the character of violence that it faces is similarly unique. The causes of violence at health care facilities are subject to changing patterns and types of crimes. The level of violence depends highly on location and population. With consistent training, reporting procedures, and security measures, hospitals can create positive, safe environments. Lessons learned from emergency planning and drills can be shared across the system, and collaboration with local law enforcement can be strengthened.

Security service companies can help standardize a systemwide program that creates efficiencies. Through contract security, the security provider alleviates the costs and management challenges associated with payroll, recruiting, background screening, training, benefits, uniforms, scheduling, compliance, regulatory support, workers’ compensation, and other related payroll taxes and insurance for security personnel.

As many health care companies add acute care hospitals, behavioral health centers, surgical hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and radiation oncology centers, they should consider leveraging their size to gain value and operational efficiencies while creating safer and more secure environments.

— Ken Bukowski is vice president of health care at AlliedBarton Security Services.