Navigating Today’s Healthcare Security Landscape: 10 Critical Visitor Management “Must Haves”

This article appeared in IAHSS "The Beat" e-newsletter dated July 30, 2021- Healthcare facilities have unique security and surveillance needs, ensuring the safety of staff, patients, and visitors while maintaining the highest level of privacy protection. Navigating today’s healthcare security landscape requires specialized tools that meet the unique needs of managing patient data while covering the complex demands of securing patients, staff, and guests. A visitor management system designed to integrate with the hospital’s HL7 system for managing patient location look-ups, patient restrictions, outpatient appointments and visitor limits is a crucial component of a hospital’s security infrastructure.

An enterprise-level visitor management system is more than just a simple tracking and badging tool. These systems have evolved into a complete security solution, and play a critical role when ensuring the safety of your visitors, patients and staff. Here are the ten critical visitor management “Must Haves” for securing a healthcare facility:

1.    Control Visitor Limits: A visitor management system links visitors to patients allowing hospitals to manage the number of active visitors allowed in patient areas. These systems must be flexible too, and allow limit overrides for end-of-life situations or block visitors if a patient does not want to be disturbed or requires isolation. 

2.    Track Real-time Patient Location: Another important requirement is the ability to track patient location – room, bed, unit, floor – after patient admittance. A robust visitor management system tracks a patient throughout the stay in the hospital, including room transfers and outpatient services. This ensures visitors are sent to the proper location during sign-in and eliminates the need for staff to use a secondary system to determine current patient location. 

3.    Communicate Patient Restrictions: Situations inside a hospital can change quickly, and a nimble system that integrates with a patient information system keeps staff, doctors, nurses and visitors up-to-date on the status of patients. A doctor may require the patient is not disturbed or that the patient be quarantined, or a patient may request to block certain individuals. Communicating these restrictions in regards to visitors adds a level of safety and security providing peace-of-mind to you and your patients. In addition, a visitor management system can also screen visitors by integrating custom watch lists, or subscriptions-based services such as National Sex Offender Registry and the Government Restricted and Denied Party Lists.

4.    Help Prevent Violence in the Workplace: Protecting and helping patients is the first concern for healthcare, but a close second is ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for staff. A visitor management system that integrates with employee directories (such as human resources or an access control cardholder database) ensures that terminated employees can no longer pre-register or host visitors. Also, this employee information can be displayed to alert front desk staff if someone is trying to visit a person who is no longer an employee. Additionally, staff-specific watchlists can be created to prevent unwanted or restricted visitors’ access to employees.

5.    Limit Visitor Access to Specific Areas: A hospital is a bustling environment with staff, patients, and visitors moving about in all directions. A key strategy to securing the people and the building is to make sure individuals can only access authorized areas relevant to their visit. Integration with the access control system controls the temporary access clearances provided based on patient location received from the visitor management system. A unique barcode or QR code can be printed on the visitor badge to allow access to certain floors and just those areas specific to the visiting patient. In addition to visitors, hospitals can create category-based access rules for students, contractors, vendors and more!

6.    Report Metrics for Staffing: A good visitor management system offers the ability to extract useful information in order to help manage the operations of a healthcare facility. The system provides pre-populated report formats that can help determine peak visitor times and usage statistics for various departments and services (x-ray, emergency room, etc.) that help to make staffing and resource scheduling decisions. This data can be limited to select users to ensure sensitive data is controlled to ensure HIPAA compliance.

7.    Enforce Unique Policies: Each hospital or healthcare campus is unique, with different requirements, policies and procedures. A policy-based visitor management system allows a facility to easily customize visitor registration workflows and to automate processes for policy enforcement to eliminate human error. It is important for a system to be fully customizable so a facility can create different workflows and enforce policies for the unique needs of each facility.

8.    Manage Outpatients: Since outpatients are a different type of visitor, they follow different policies and requirements than an inpatient visitor. A visitor management system that has the ability to manage this outpatient population is an asset. By automatically pre-registering outpatients with a scheduled appointment, staff has a listing of all appointments for the day and hospitals can create a unique workflow to streamline the check in experience for outpatients and reduce the workload on the registration desk. 

9.    Adhere to COVID-Related Requirements: From daily health survey questionnaires, to collecting contact tracing information, to technology for automatic temperature checks, facilities are searching for the best methods to ensure staff and visitors meet health guidelines without incurring prohibitive costs, taking up valuable time, or violating personal privacy protections. A visitor management system is the ideal technological solution, it satisfies the compelling need to know who is in the hospital and to know more about them, from a safety and security perspective and from a health risk perspective.

10.    Control Visitor Traffic: Knowing who is in a facility, who they are visiting, and where they are is key to controlling visitor traffic and help keep a facility secure and patients and employee’s safe. During COVID, hospitals had to control the occupancy for both patient and non-patient areas and this trend is continuing. A visitor management system can keep track of the number of occupants in an area as well as set the total number of visitors allowed per hospital per day if required. The data that a system keeps can be leveraged to improve workflows, manage schedules, and ensure the smooth operation of the facility.

All healthcare facilities face similar challenges: knowing who is inside the building, monitoring access points, and ensuring the safety of not just patients but staff and visitors. An access control system can handle basic requirements, but a robust visitor management system that integrates with the hospital’s HL7 system improves the security, safety, and operation of the hospital, areas crucial to providing optimum patient care. A visitor management system extends the reach of the hospital lobby by tracking patient and visitor movement throughout the hospital, ensuring proper access credentials, and preventing specific people from entering the hospital. These functions help create a safe working environment, streamline operations, and ensure authorized personnel are in the right place at the right time. Today, a visitor management system is no longer an extra security feature; it is an integral part of a tailored hospital security plan and must address ever-changing challenges to allow caregivers to treat patients with a sense of security and protection.

Protect your hospital against security threats while maintaining an open and inviting environment with PassagePoint HL7, the most scalable healthcare visitor management solution available. PassagePoint HL7 is an easy-to-use, on-premise Healthcare Visitor Management System that manages the security and safety of your patients, staff, and visitors. The system uses an HL7 Listener to receive real-time ADT (Admission/Discharge/Transfer) messages from the Hospital’s Patient information system to access patient location restrictions, outpatient appointments, and to manage visitors.

Written by Debbie Pendleton, COO, STOPware, Inc.