Enhancing Operational Efficiency through Hospital Security Design

Jeff Smith
June 13, 2024
Min Read
Enhancing Operational Efficiency through Hospital Security Design

In healthcare, the design and implementation of security measures may profoundly influence a facility's safety and operational efficiency. Building on our previous blog, which explored how security design can greatly impact the facility by adding or relocating paths of egress in healthcare facilities, this blog delves into specific security solutions that can minimize or eliminate the need for delayed-egress locking hardware, dual-egress doors, and other additional security devices. These changes can reduce the quantity of equipment needed, decrease device testing costs, and promote a better working environment for hospital staff. Early security planning can also help healthcare facilities optimize their equipment to achieve multiple functions across the facility, creating more value out of existing hardware and software. 

The Role of Security in Operational Efficiency

When architectural teams work with experienced security design consultants early in the programming phase, developing the correct space programming requirements and enhancing operational efficiency and code compliance is possible. The primary challenge for the team when designing the path of egress in healthcare facilities is providing sufficient code-required capacity in the correct locations (not back-of-house locations) to minimize using delayed egress locking hardware and additional security controls. With the eye of an experienced security design consultant, innovative solutions can be implemented that ensure the correct balance between safety and operational needs, creating a more people-focused design. 

Eliminating the need for delayed egress locking hardware and additional security controls

Delayed egress can create a disruptive environment for patients and staff in healthcare settings. Furthermore, such systems are costly to maintain due to their complex mechanisms and the need for regular compliance checks. This can be avoided when the design intends to remove the use of delayed-egress locking hardware or, at a minimum, reduce the number of locations. 

While smoke compartments are required, they include the use of dual-egress doors, which are challenging to control with security controls and auto operators. By working with the project architect to carefully design the location and quantities of these compartments, a security consultant can attempt to minimize the use of dual-egress doors and align them where we can provide departmental double doors instead. This can remove disruptive false alarms, which negatively impact patients and staff.

During a recent project, our team helped the owner and architect identify a staircase that could be relocated to reduce the amount of delayed-egress hardware and other security controls. We also worked with the fire life safety engineer and architect to develop a comprehensive, well-planned fire life safety program, developing the best plan for the facility. 

Dual egress doors require additional security hardware. Reducing dual egress doors in a facility will decrease security hardware costs and maintenance.
Standard dual egress doors, as shown above, require additional security hardware. Reducing their use in a facility will decrease security hardware costs and maintenance. 

Fire Stairwell Lock-Risers

Implementing a fire stairwell lock riser provides a more cost-effective solution than the traditional approach. One recent project included the security design for a 14-story non-ambulatory hospital. When designing the fire stairwell lock risers, the team placed lock power supplies and two fire relay systems on the 7th floor. This allowed control of the ascending and descending door lock power circuit. This strategic placement allows maintenance staff to inspect only two relays on a single floor as opposed to the traditional 28 relays. This streamlines maintenance efforts and significantly reduces the annual testing time and labor involved, in this case, by 92% (28 relays vs 2)! 

An example of a fire stairwell lock power supply controlling fire stair doors above and below the floor it is located on.
An example of a fire stairwell lock power supply controlling fire stair doors above and below the floor it is located on. 

Planning Integrations and Looking to Future Integrations

Engaging security consultants early in design also allows for advice on gaining greater functionality with the same equipment. This simplifies the procurement process and helps improve the hospital staff's workflow. The more uses a facility can derive from the installed system, the better value it receives. Card readers, cameras, and intercoms are commonly used in security systems and other operational areas. An example may be the security system interfacing with departmental door hold-open magnets. Staff can keep the door open during business hours, and the security system will automatically close and lock it at a set time without any staff involvement.

Often, the same piece of equipment, such as card readers, is sourced from different vendors. These pieces of hardware can be consolidated to create a better technology ecosystem for a healthcare facility. For example, card readers can be integrated so that in code blue situations, the responding team can use the same access card for their department to take control of the elevators during emergencies. As everything runs on the same network today, devices will support multiple end-users and departments in the future. Picking and leveraging a product across the board for multiple functions is optimal.

The Benefits of Thoughtful Security Design

As security consultants, the goal is to design systems that comply with the industry standard of care, codes, and unique user requirements, and promote a cost-effective, efficient operational environment. By including security consultants from the beginning of a project, owners and architects can expect the following benefits: 

  • Accurate initial project budgets: In-depth experience with a wide range of security hardware allows better prediction of costs based on constructibility and planned integrations. 
  • Strategic product selection: With extensive industry knowledge, clients can be guided to the best product for their needs. Initial technology deployments are planned for the future and will support a facility’s growth.
  • Detailed documentation packages: Leaving gaps in documentation does not create predictable outcomes. This can be a major risk in Design-Build projects without a dedicated technology/security consultant.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME): Leveraging the experience and knowledge of SMEs to review and inspect the contractor's work, identifying deficiencies and remediation strategies. 

The benefits of a thoughtful security design extend beyond the construction process. Security input directly impacts a facility's daily operations and can reduce disturbances, contributing to a more peaceful and efficient healthcare environment. This can improve patient satisfaction and staff morale. Furthermore, these cost-saving measures create an opportunity to reinvest in other critical areas of the healthcare facility, like patient care and medical equipment upgrades.

Does your healthcare facility use a more integrated and people-focused security design? Visit our contact page and send us a quick message. One of our security subject matter experts will get in touch with you.