Healing Access Control Woes: Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital Finds a Cure for Its Access Control Pains with an Integrated System. (Healthcare)

By Leahy, Robert F.; Michelman, Bonnie S. | Security Management, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Healing Access Control Woes: Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital Finds a Cure for Its Access Control Pains with an Integrated System. (Healthcare)


Leahy, Robert F., Michelman, Bonnie S., Security Management


Medical facilities, while they cater to those in need of care, may also attract the distraught or vengeful, the thief, the terrorist, and the abductor. Access control, as part of an overall hospital security plan, can help to mitigate these threats and preserve the hospital as a sanctuary of healing.

BOSTON'S Massachusetts General Hospital is a downtown 1,200-bed medical center. Each year, the 15,000 employees of the hospital and its suburban satellite clinics treat more than 1 million patients. Twenty years ago, the first basic electronic access control systems were installed at the hospital to combat the growing ill effects of violence, de-institutionalization, and increased substance abuse. The intervening years have seen a sharp escalation in attacks on researchers conducting animal experiments and on thefts of narcotic drugs, while September 11, 2001, introduced the increased threat of terrorism.

To safeguard against all of these threats, the hospital relies on a complex integrated access control system that includes hundreds of CCTV cameras, digital recorders, and multiplexers, as well as approximately 900 card readers and 1,500 doors controlled by 180 distributed data processing panels--all of which are monitored around the clock by Police and Security Department personnel in the hospital's Security Communications Center.

The main campus includes 28 contiguous buildings, as well as 13 separate buildings owned or leased by the hospital, comprising approximately 5-5 million square feet. The dozens of entrances into the buildings are linked to the access control system, which has the capacity to instantaneously lock down the facility.

After hours, two public entrances remain open, both of which are monitored by a security officer. In addition, the exterior of the facility, which stretches multiple city blocks on approximately 4 acres, is monitored by dozens of CCTV cameras.

Parking. There are two six-level parking facilities with 1,300 spaces, as well as numerous other parking areas for patients, visitors, and employees, many of which are leased. Each garage has a separate cashier area using a central pay system that is integrated with the overall security system. CCTV cameras monitor and record all activity in the seven cashier areas. Each area has a "panic" button that sends a silent alarm to the Security Communications Center.

Security officers patrol both garages in marked security vehicles, as well as on foot and bike, and there are emergency call boxes with cameras strategically located throughout the parking facilities that provide instantaneous communication with security. Each call box is also monitored by CCTV.

High risk. Internally, the emergency room, obstetrics/pediatrics, psychiatric, cash handling, pharmacy, research, operating rooms, women's health, and employee locker areas have been designated as high risk and in need of an extra layer of access control. The rooms housing information systems are also among the more than 5,000 points secured by the access control system, which incorporates alarms, doors, detectors, card readers, and CCTV.

ER. Of all the high-risk areas, the emergency department has the most potential for problem behavior that can result from the presence of highly distraught relations vengeful enemies, and out-of-control patients.

Public access to the treatment areas is limited for the protection of the patients and their privacy, and to allow the medical staff to function without interference. There are only two exterior entrances to the ER. The first is the public entrance that feeds into the waiting room. The second is the ambulance entrance where emergency crews offload and bring in patients they have transported.

In the waiting area, the only doors to the treatment area remain locked at all times and any family member or friend who gains access to the treatment areas must be granted entry by an ER employee. …

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Healing Access Control Woes: Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital Finds a Cure for Its Access Control Pains with an Integrated System. (Healthcare)
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