Managing Points of Access: Hospitals Assert Tighter Control over Vendor and Visitor Access to Improve Safety

By Vesely, Rebecca | Health Facilities Management, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Managing Points of Access: Hospitals Assert Tighter Control over Vendor and Visitor Access to Improve Safety


Vesely, Rebecca, Health Facilities Management


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In recent years, hospital leaders have taken a closer look at ways to control access to their facilities for decidedly different security purposes.

To better enforce supply chain protocols, reduce costs and improve patient safety, many organizations began more clearly defining policies about direct vendor access to surgeons in the OR and how to optimize credentialing protocols for vendor sales representatives.

At the same time, many health care organizations started taking a harder look at how to best manage visitor access at all hours in a way that would ensure patient and staff safety while still providing loved ones the ability to visit patients freely.

What hasn't been well-known as these events have unfolded is what specific strategies, policies and technologies hospitals and health systems have put in place to try to deal effectively with these two unrelated, yet often complex, security and policy matters.

So where does the industry stand today?

Tighter control over vendor and visitor access is becoming the standard among hospitals, according to the first-ever survey of Health Facilities Management and Hospitals & Health Networks readers on this topic.

The online survey, completed by 824 respondents across all 50 states (13.1 percent of those polled), revealed that nearly 86 percent of respondents have a formal vendor credentialing program. Of the 14 percent of respondents without a formal program, 35 percent said they would very likely or somewhat likely be implementing one in the next 12 months. Only 30 organizations said they had no plans to implement such policies.

"When looking at vendor access, it is a cost-control issue and a quality issue," says Dale Montgomery, vice president of support services for Hays (Kan.) Medical Center and a survey respondent.

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Compliance was the biggest driver in setting formal policies around vendor access, according to respondents. Sixty-three percent of those with a vendor credentialing policy cited compliance with Joint Commission and/or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as primary drivers. And nearly 56 percent said compliance with laws and regulations was a primary driver.

The Joint Commission requires hospitals to identify individuals entering facilities and their purpose (under EC.02.01.01, Element of Performance No. 7). However, the Joint Commission leaves it up to hospitals to determine the details of identification. The standards-setting organization has additional expectations for nonlicensed, nonemployees who have a direct impact on patient care, such as health care industry representatives. These expectations include making sure infection control and informed consent protocols are followed and that patient safety and patient privacy are protected.

"Like many Joint Commission standards, you have to have a plan in place and follow that plan," says Tim Adams, FASHE, CHFM, CHC, director of leadership development at the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, which participated in the survey research along with the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM). IntelliCentrics, Flower Mound, Texas, sponsored the survey.

Tighter supply management

Supply chain management was also a big driver in setting formal policies on vendor access, according to the survey. Half of respondents with vendor credentialing policies--more than 400 organizations--cited supply chain management as a primary motivation in setting vendor credentialing policies.

In comments, some respondents said formal policies mean that vendors have more limited access to physicians to sell products not first vetted by materials management. Others said that the policies meant fewer products brought into operating rooms without prior approval. Another respondent cited a more effective product recall process as a benefit. …

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Managing Points of Access: Hospitals Assert Tighter Control over Vendor and Visitor Access to Improve Safety
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