Hospital Control Rooms: Healthy Oversight for a Healthy Environment

Posted in: Command & Control , Healthcare

By Joshua Herring on Aug 28, 2018

The design of a modern healthcare facility or hospital must take a number of factors into consideration: parking, traffic patterns, the ability for the emergency room to be easily accessible to the public, the patient comfort of rooms, waiting room comforts, ample space in surgery centers, and much, much more. Another element to consider is the building’s overall safety and security, as well as the technology implemented to keep patients, visitors and staff safe. But even still, the ability to provide a healthy environment for security operators to oversee the safety of the environment is critical to this success.

Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass Gen) in Boston is perhaps one of the most iconic healthcare facilities in the country, named as one of the top hospitals according to U.S. & World Report. Founded in 1811, it has the largest hospital-based research program in the world, with an annual research budget of more than $900 million, making the protection of this information and the facility’s assets paramount. Recently, the facility underwent an overhaul of its security operations center (SOC), centering on the health of the operators and their ability to respond to calls effectively.

One main goal a healthcare facility has is being able to balance security and access control with a welcoming and open environment, which is the biggest distinction for healthcare versus any other vertical market. To do this, security managers must deploy a number of sensors that are designed to protect this interest in various ways, including access control, infant tracking alarms, intrusion and fire detection, video surveillance, video management systems and call box systems. Integrating all of these systems together to create a centralized SOC can be a challenge, but keeping the following things in mind when designing a healthcare-centric SOC that keeps the operators alert and comfortable is important:

Lighting. There’s a lot of research that looks at the effects of ultraviolet light and blue light on humans, citing that these kinds of lighting can cause more fatigue. For a control room, operations are happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means operators must adapt to watching screens for up to eight hours a day, which can do a number on their circadian rhythms. Installing screens that are purpose-built to address these issues can be an important step toward building a healthier environment for controllers.

Line of Sight. Prior to the updates in Mass Gen’s control room, operators had to shift from one program to another. They also had only one workstation for multiple people, greatly inhibiting their ability to keep critical information front and center in the event of an incident. One important consideration for this and other healthcare control rooms is the ability to achieve high levels of situational awareness through the implementation of line-of-sight considerations. Placing monitors, computers and consoles within reach to be easily accessed is paramount.

Ergonomics. When anyone sits at a desk for eight or more hours, it can do a number on their body. Security control room operators must often work at a single location with minimal breaks to field alarms coming in and monitor a facility. Implementing an ergonomic console that takes into account eye-level information can help keep them comfortable and alert to react appropriately in any situation.

Ease of Use. Having to sort through equipment racks or a rat’s nest of cords to access hardwired systems poses not only a security threat but also a hazard for users. Having a well-maintained and easy-to-use SOC can mean the difference between a streamlined response and a missed opportunity for addressing a threat. Integrators should make assessments based on these factors and keep equipment organized to avoid confusion when servicing or troubleshooting technology.

Temperature. Both lighting and equipment radiate heat at higher levels than a normal room, so compensating for this is important to maintain the comfort levels of the security operators in a healthcare setting. One way to do this is to minimize the output of heat from various systems by relocating them to other rooms adjacent to the control room (not only does this reduce the temperature, it also reduces the noise level in the room for easier communication between operators).

Patients aren’t the only ones in a hospital environment with health on their minds. The health of control room operators matters and building an SOC that not only is functional but also healthy takes a team dedicated to increasing the overall safety and security within a facility.

Vistacom knows the challenges of the healthcare market, and worked with Mass Gen to create a control room that serves not only the overall organization but also the operators who are tasked with fielding incoming incidents and responding accordingly. The Vistacom team will showcase this knowledge during the Global Security Exchange (GSX) by ASIS International, Sept. 25-27, at the Las Vegas Convention Center at Booth #2967. As part of the show, Vistacom will also sponsor a private reception alongside the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) from 4-6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at Bahama Breeze Island Grille in Las Vegas. We’re honored to be a part of this community of professionals and are eager to welcome them to the show.

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