ArticleS

Why Security Comes First in Healthcare Design

Editorial Team

Josh Kelly, RCDD; Maria Gonzalez, CPP; Nick Tournis, PMP; Rooz Afzal, CTS, RCDD and Scott Anderson contributed to this article.

During the initial planning stages for new healthcare projects, clients often come to us with design aspirations for beautiful, state-of-the-art hospitals with lobbies and patient rooms that closely resemble the appearance of four-star hotels. These design ideas are incredibly exciting, but they often leave out some key considerations that are integral for these forward-thinking hospitals for the future.

In 2022, violence in hospital settings is at an all-time high. When faced with these statistics, healthcare leadership needs to make security a priority when beginning new or upgraded hospital projects. By involving security consultants in projects early on, healthcare companies can be assured that they are designing buildings with a security program in place to keep hospital visitors safe and will also be adaptable for future expansion and upgrades.

When in the planning stages of a healthcare project, our team considers many aspects of the facility, including the surrounding environment, flow of hospital traffic, and future flexibility.

Look at the Location First

“When starting a new project, you have to consider the whole medical campus – not just the building that you are designing.”

– Nick Tournis, PMP, Principal Consultant

Before our security experts use complex programs to design security systems, we look at geographical planning and crime statistics. Our team can provide validation reports to identify current conditions in the area, types of crime taking place, and analyze future crime trends. Based on the information pulled from these reports, our team can then make recommendations on the different levels of security, to mitigate the identified risk. The exterior security design features layouts and technology that will support the organization’s vision and security requirements to ensure the safety of patients, staff, visitors, and assets. 

Understanding where a new hospital is being built within a city, as well as within an existing medical campus, allows our team to lay the groundwork for their design process of exterior security program using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. It helps them answer questions like: “Will people be able to enter this restaurant from the street and from the hospital?”; “Is this Emergency Department entrance accessible to pedestrians?”; or “Are the main entrance lighting levels higher to naturally draw users to the correct entry point?”.

We use crime statistics, CPTED principles, and electronic security measures as guidelines for developing security budgets, mitigating known risk, and helping guide the architectural team on physical layouts.

Flow of Hospital Traffic

After addressing exterior security concerns and making appropriate recommendations, it’s time to take a look at how the interior of the hospital will operate once it is up and running. Having insight into the flow of staff, patients, and visitors allows our team to advise on how to control separation of space through the use of elevators and stairs, public areas, restricted areas (such as operating rooms, pharmacies, behavioral health centers, labor, and delivery units), and administrative office spaces. We work with the architectural team to lay out the floor plans that will support the organization’s operational requirements while complying with additional code requirements. 

In order to keep everyone within the hospital as safe as possible, staff and visitors should not have the ability to enter all floors, wings, and rooms in the building. Utilizing security controls such as locking doors, key card entry points, video surveillance cameras, intercoms, and software that assigns specific visitor credentials are forms of controlling access to designated spaces that can help ensure that anyone inside the hospital is safe, as well as provide ease of access for hospital staff as they work.

Obtaining employee and patient buy-in while designing interior security systems helps our team see the ‘day in the life’ experience of everyone who will be frequenting the hospital. This information allows consultants to provide the most suitable and customized recommendations for the building being designed.

Design for Security Upgrades

“We’re ultimately here to help make the staff and patients’ experiences better.”
– Josh Kelly, RCDD, Principal, Senior Consultant

Throughout the lifespan of a project our consultants always have infrastructure flexibility and scalability in mind. In our experience, healthcare projects are often complex, highly regulated, have rigid budgets, and extended project schedules impact the design process and product selection.

There are so many things to consider when constructing a singular hospital building. How will it integrate with the rest of the medical campus? Will this new security system be compatible with existing systems? Will this new building meet the wants and needs of staff and patients?

Since most large-scale hospital projects require large capital budgets and have long design and construction durations, it may make sense to use the new project as the starting point of a security upgrade. In most cases, the current security system is long past its life expectancy and is a potential cyber security risk. Most organizations have a hard time finding the required funding to bring their outdated security system up-to-date and the new project will allow them to fund the initial security system upgrade at little additional cost to the project.

On a previous healthcare project, we had initially proposed to install card readers to control stairway access on each floor. In order to free up space in their budget, hospital leadership chose to forgo this security measure and asked integrators to remove the card readers, cabling, and security panels. Prior to this change order, our team was able to step in and advise them not to remove the conduit and back boxes in case they wanted to put in card readers in the future. Taking that small piece of advice ended up saving our client major costs in the long run when they ultimately chose to reinstall the card readers for an additional level of security prior to opening the hospital to the public.

Designing with infrastructure flexibility can relieve project stress, save money, help avoid difficult architectural changes, and create room for changes now as well as years into the future.

How TEECOM Can Help:

“Some other firms will have what they call ‘technology-based teams’, but those ‘teams’ might be just one person dedicated to working on security for all of their healthcare projects in the United States. At TEECOM we have multiple people working on each service offering (security, IT infrastructure, acoustics, network, WiFi, etc) and bringing it all together for one project. The size of our team and our breadth of knowledge truly makes us an all-in-one technology systems design company.” – Scott Anderson, Principal Consultant

Our dedicated consultants have more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry and are ready to create systems that make the hospital experience better for everyone involved. To continue the conversation about your project’s needs, contact us using the form at the bottom of the page.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team, TEECOM | Engage

TEECOM | Engage's Editorial Team brings you the latest content and TEEm news. It’s our goal to provide actionable intelligence and engaging insight into integrated technology in the built environment. We welcome your feedback and ideas.