Electronic access control: physically securing medical equipment

Southco's Simon Williamson discusses how intelligent electronic access systems can improve the security of confidential patient information within the healthcare industry.

Healthcare providers are concentrating their efforts on ensuring they have the appropriate physical safeguards in place to protect confidential patient information. Despite actions taken industry-wide to protect patient privacy, an alarming number of medical records are still subject to security breaches each year.

Healthcare IT managers can improve security by integrating intelligent electronic access systems into the equipment that stores confidential patient data, such as server racks and wall-mounted charting stations. Electronic access systems combine intelligent electronic locking mechanisms with remote monitoring and audit trail capabilities, and can be networked with existing facility security systems to control access.

Physical security approaches traditionally used in healthcare facilities include mechanical locks with different keying options, some of which allow multiple key codes for added security. With the need for greater security, healthcare IT managers are turning to electronic access systems from specialist engineered access hardware suppliers like Southco.

A complete electronic access system consists of an electronic lock or latch, access control device and remote monitoring capabilities. Intelligent electronic locks can be operated from a variety of access control devices, from standalone keypads to fully networked RFID and biometric readers. Combining an electronic lock with an access control device provides an additional layer of security for healthcare equipment that stores valuable patient data.

Electronic access systems eliminate the complexity of managing multiple mechanical keys and can provide real-time remote access monitoring and audit trail reporting through the generation of an electronic "signatur" - a digital record of activity that can be monitored locally or remotely and aid in meeting compliance requirements.

Each time an electronic access-enabled enclosure opens or closes, a signal is sent to a monitoring system to confirm and log access. Depending on the configuration, electronic access reporting can provide simple open/close information as well as additional data such as which credential was used to activate the electronic lock; the time and duration of the event; and if access was activated electronically or mechanically.

In the event a security breach does occur, this audit trail can be used to forensically reconstruct a series of events leading up to the suspicious activity.

Networked systems for equipment security

Electronic access systems are well suited for securing medical equipment as they can provide an indisputable access audit trail for all doors and cabinets secured electronically, allowing the healthcare facility to demonstrate compliance with industry regulations. When combined with a building's existing security system, electronic locks create one cohesive security network across the healthcare facility to control access.

Electronic access systems that have been networked with the health care facility's existing security network allow employees to access these charting stations with the same credentials they use to enter the building. Each time the card comes in contact with the reader and the door to the wall charting station opens or closes, a signal is sent to the monitoring system to confirm and log access, creating an audit trail of all activity.

Electronic access systems work with existing user credentials to keep medical equipment secure, connecting building security and equipment access through standardised security credential protocols. In addition, electronic locks can communicate with IP security cameras or other security devices, expanding the scope and capabilities of a security network.

Electronic access offers a multitude of options for securing medical equipment throughout the hospital or institution, including intelligent locking mechanisms and access control devices that work with existing building security systems.

When choosing an electronic access system, it should ultimately provide remote monitoring capabilities to control access within the facility and audit trail capabilities. It is important to consider access control and select an equipment-level security system that leverages the facility's overall physical security system.

For more information about Southco's innovative electronic access systems, please visit www.southco.com.

Southco Europe Ltd

Touch Point, Wainwright Road
Warndon
Worcester
WR4 9FA
UNITED KINGDOM

+44 (0)1905 346722

info@southco.com

www.southco.com

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