The brilliant work being done by medical teams in many countries is obvious – but let’s also spare a thought for the unsung heroes who support them, from the security officers working long hours to watch over healthcare premises, to the specialist back office teams focused on building more efficient systems that protect everyone.

If there’s one thing the current crisis has taught us, it’s that efficient management, and robust systems, are as important as the dedication of medics when it comes to patient care. In countries where health systems have struggled, that lesson has never been more obvious.

Today senior managers, administrators and support teams – including everyone in those hard-pressed security departments – are an essential part of frontline of healthcare.

It’s their job to ensure that patients are correctly routed through hospitals to maintain infection control; it’s their job to manage crowd control in public areas especially in and around busy city centres hospitals; it’s their job to protect supplies of precious PPE equipment and medicines; it’s their job not to forget all the old security risks, which certainly haven’t gone away. And while they are doing all this, they have to keep half an eye on whether they themselves – and their colleagues – are properly protected.

For these security teams the whole risk landscape has changed, and they are dealing with it. Normally busy locations are suddenly half-deserted as routine appointments are postponed and visits to patients by family and friends are restricted.

With fewer people around there is an increased threat to property and to high value assets. This is why many healthcare providers are requiring increased the frequency of guard patrols.

But while many big hospitals and medical facilities are now hiring in additional officers to cope with the new situation, clearly in the longer term that is likely to become to expensive a policy to maintain.

So, we need smart security provision as much as we need devoted nurses – and we need the systems, the support services, and the contingency planning to back it all up.

This will come as no surprise to any of the hard-working professionals we know in our own security and integrated management systems sector.

For over a year now, we’ve been competing to help these back-room teams improve their hospitals’ access and visitor management solutions, to cut out complexity, and to help them run better. And that includes one of the biggest projects we’ve been involved in, covering almost two hundred clinical centres for the UK’s NHS.

Getting ‘floating staff’ to where they are needed

The priority at the moment is to be able to deploy medical teams flexibly.  With large numbers of new staff being signed on to work at hospitals, including thousands of retired medics returning to work, there is a real challenge around managing access.

And there’s a need for solutions that will allow thousands of ‘floating staff’ to be moved between locations, deployed each day to where they are most needed.   It’s not just temporary employees and contractors that need to be managed but also staff turnover caused by illness. Temporary staff need to prove access authorisation for each location, every day – but at the same time delays and inconvenience need to be minimised.

So, any solution that makes this complexity simpler and allows the service’s disparate legacy systems to be linked together, should be welcomed. A clear scrutiny of costs will show that investing in more efficient, capable systems offers best long-term value, compared to hiring more frontline security staff to make up for the fact that systems are failing.

As we already outlined in a previous blog, the immediate benefits of integrated video, access and intruder systems are something most security teams appreciate.  Not only does integration eliminate the security gaps caused by operators switching between applications, potentially missing critical incidents or becoming overwhelmed with alarms from disparate systems, but operating multiple systems from one interface is simply far more efficient.

One smart feature, for example, saves time and work by allowing employee data from Microsoft Active Directory to be used to populate a new, unified access control and visitor management system.

With this approach, staff onboarding and offboarding is much faster and eliminates the age-old process of calling new staff to the security department to obtain a photo and to issue their proximity card – a bottleneck task which involved and face to face contact.  PINs and/or QR codes can now be sent to each new or existing staff member, giving them access to the specific site (or multiple sites) where they are needed. On arrival, they simply enter the PIN or hold the QR code up to the intercom to gain access to the site, including to allocated parking areas, all while providing a complete audit trail.

Making it easier to manage contractors, hospital administrators can also ensure access is filtered and time-limited to specific facilities and doors. And, with a couple of clicks, managers can revalidate access or increase access into other facilities, as and when required.

Such solutions also make it easy for updated, site-specific instructions to be sent via email, SMS or apps – again, reducing potential disruption as any emergency situation unfolds and relieving pressure on already stretched front-line security staff.

And it’s this type of automation and removal of human process that will support the ‘new normal’ of social distancing for the foreseeable future. For example, it will allow organisation to safely manage operations from control rooms without the need for security gatehouses.  And if these systems are well maintained by a trusted systems integrator, as well as easy and intuitive to use for staff, contractors and visitors, the result is less direct interaction with security staff. Which means less strain on team resources, and reduced risk.

All these features are being developed, and continually improved, thanks high calibre back room teams, security specialists and technical innovators. Long may their work continue.

So next time you’re rightly applauding healthcare professionals… remember the unsung heroes fixing the back-room essentials that everyone relies on.