Award-winning technology innovation distinguishes Albany Medical Center
Award-winning technology innovation distinguishes Albany Medical Center

Jun 1, 1998 12:00 PM

Inclusion in a Smithsonian Institute collection is just one of the rewards the medical center has reaped from a comprehensive security upgrade. Every year, the Computer World/ Smithsonian Award honors information technology visionaries. This year, Albany Medical Center, a 631-bed hospital and one of America's oldest medical schools, was honored with the award for its integrated security management program. Director of security services John Herritage, who manages a staff of 36 that includes 31 security officers, accepted a medallion on behalf of the Medical Center at an April 6 awards ceremony at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Albany Medical Center's program will be included in the Smithsonian Institute's 1998 Information Technology Innovation Collection and will be part of its permanent research collection on Information Technology Innovation at the National Museum of American History. The honor is one of the most visible rewards stemming from a security upgrade the center began several years ago, but there have been others: - cost savings on outside security services, which alone come to $50,000 per year; - greater management control of security incidents; - greater efficiency in managing security breaches and access control; - more accurate employee and visitor identification; and - reduction of theft. In a recent incident, "a patient was disgruntled and gave the staff a hard time," says Herritage, who retired as a staff inspector for the New York State Police after 21 years, and served as deputy commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services for six years. "He threatened them and put his foot through a glass door," Herritage recalls. "Employees simultaneously hit three panic alarms, which went directly to our dispatch center workstation, where a security officer dispatched three officers several blocks away to the scene. The situation was controlled, and the subject was taken into custody until the police arrived." Had the incident occurred at a facility that was farther away from the hospital proper, the dispatch officer would likely have called local police first. The incident underscored the importance of the Medical Center's far-reaching five-year security upgrade plan, in which its main hospital building will be automated with an integrated access control/alarm system. As of this summer, the first phases of the upgrade will have been implemented at 10 of the 16 off-site primary care facilities, an off-site finance office and a 100-student dormitory. At sites where the new system has not yet been put in place, an outside security company serves as middleman, controlling the alarm system and deciding who should be called and when. "They call us or the police. Where the system is installed, we make those decisions," says Herritage, who acknowledges that replacing the old system with the new one may not be feasible at all locations. But where it has been done, there have been considerable cost savings. "We pay up to $50 per site for outside monitoring per month and have saved approximately $50,000 per year by going to in-house control of these sites," he says.

Integrated alarms,badging and access control The heart of the security upgrade is a Diebold 5100D integrated security system. It includes a Presider Alarm Terminal at each facility to pick up alarm signals and transfer them to the 5100D file server via the hospital's local area network (LAN) in most cases, and via a fiber-optic network from two remote facilities. The Presider contains its own limited intelligence of data relevant to the particular site and can provide local reports for management at that site. When an alarm is activated, its location and other information appears on the 5100D workstation monitor, and police or in-house security officers are immediately dispatched to the location. "The panic alarm stays on the screen until reset by an officer. The 5100D gives step-by-step instructions for pulling up information when the alarm activates," explains Mark Radke, worldwide marketing manager for Diebold. This includes details as to the type of alarm and the location, as well as site-specific data, such as operating hours. Floor plans are also an option available with the software. Alarm points such as panic buttons and door contacts are wired directly to the Presider units at each of the monitored sites. A Diebold network interface adapter enables data from the Presider alarm terminal to be transmitted over the LAN to the 5100D file server. "At the sites where we don't have LAN capability, we use fiber-optic cables to connect the 5100D to an auto-dialer phone that picks up points on the Presider," says Radke.

Access control works in conjunction with alarms The network interface adapter also enables data from the Diebold access control readers, which are attached to doors at the monitored sites, to be transmitted back to the main 5100D workstations through a remote control module - a local controller at each upgraded site placed within 10 to 15 feet of the readers. The modules internally store data and card verification information such as cardholder, scheduling and event information (relating to security breaches at the location, such as a door that has been forced open). The controller is wired to the individual readers at the site and connected to the 5100D through the LAN or fiber optics. The 5100D integrated security software can generate reports relating to authorized card usage, individual reports specific to a location, and building information such as activity into and out of a facility. License plate numbers of cardholders and emergency information can also be generated.

"As a trauma center, we work closely with the local Mutual Aid program, and the new system is expected to be a big help in this respect," says Herritage. "When we have an emergency, we will be able to issue identification cards to medical personnel from other facilities who may need access for several days or more. We will be issuing a particular color card to these personnel, have them fill out forms, and give them their credentials on the spot. When the emergency workers come each day, we can verify their authorization through the software program," says Herritage. Different levels of authorization are programmed into the cards for various employees and students, including access times and building access privileges. The local controllers at each site verify the transactions and store the information, sending it back to the file server at a convenient time. An "unknown badge" icon will appear on the workstation screen if an unauthorized person tries to enter a facility. The security system is operated from two workstations. Management decisions such as authorization for access control, issuance of badges, inputting of alarm schedules, operational plans for dispatch center operators and authorization to turn alarms on and off reside with the administration center workstation located in the security administrative offices. This information is available to, but cannot be manipulated, or controlled by, dispatch center operators. Notes Radke of the system: "There are 100 categories of what an operator can view. For instance, operators can be allowed to view a floor plan but not modify it, to respond to an alarm but not shut off that alarm point."

Video imaging system integrated with the 5100D Video imaging will be facilitated as the Medical Center's stand-alone video imaging system, Bold Imaging, manufactured by Diebold, becomes integrated with the 5100D, a process that has begun. "The imaging data and access control data need only be entered once," says Herritage. "It is shared on a common database in which pictures and up to 50 personal items on an individual can be stored." Implementation of the badging system was the first step in the center's security upgrade, and employees voted on the type of badge they wanted - a fact Herritage believes gives them substantial pride. The center's approximately 6,900 employees, volunteers, students and staff use magnetic stripe ID badges. The rebadging effort began in April 1997. The badges are multi-use. In the main medical center, which includes a 631-bed hospital as well as administrative offices and the security dispatch center, the badges are used for ID purposes and will be used for access control as part of the five-year plan. The badges are also used to control the issuance of surgical scrubs worn by operating room personnel and as debit cards in the cafeteria - functions that depend on two independent systems. The Auto-Valet system, manufactured in Chantilly, Va., dispenses scrubs according to a preprogrammed plan to 1,500 card holders who are authorized to receive a particular number of scrubs. The system at present allows them to receive three pairs at a time; to receive new ones, they must return the used uniforms. Also programmed into medical staff and employee badges is information relating to meal allowances and prepayments, which allows personnel to use the badges as debit cards in the cafeteria using a system installed by Trinity Cash Register of Albany, N.Y. The system includes its own computer, located in the cafeteria manager's office, as well as card readers attached to the cash registers. Future applications being considered for the magnetic stripe cards include time-and-attendance recordkeeping, tracking of guard patrols and automatic drug dispensing. "In the future, we'd like to implement a guard control option that will allow the security officers to use ID cards to keep a record of their patrols," says Herritage.

CCTV system extensive A CCTV system controlled from the dispatch center includes: - 84 fixed and pan/tilt/zoom Panasonic cameras inside and outside the hospital; - Panasonic time-lapse VCRs; - Panasonic monitors ranging in size from 12 to 20 inches; and - American Dynamics multiplexers and switchers. Coaxatrons, housings and domes for the cameras are manufactured by Pelco. JMS Electronics, Rensselear, N.Y., installed and maintains the CCTV system. "In the future, we hope to integrate the camera system with the access control and alarm system so that when an alarm point is breached, the camera in the vicinity will immediately bring up an image of that area," says Herritage.

Dormitory to receive integrated system "The very first project we had in mind was to install an access control and alarm system in the dormitory, and now, after two and a half years, we're doing it," notes Herritage. The system is set to be installed in the 100-student dorm, which houses both medical and law school students, by July. "We now have a stationary post with an officer on duty 16 hours a day - 24 hours on weekends and holidays. We'll still use foot patrols at the dorm, but we will no longer have the stationary post once the access control system is installed," he says. "On each floor there will be a phone that rings directly to the dispatch center as well as panic alarms inside and outside that ring directly to the center and set off audio alarms and strobe lights outside the building. Cameras are already in place, but they will be using microwave to bring images back to the dispatch center." Radke sums up why he feels the Albany Medical Center's program is a success. He explains that the center committed itself to a five-year plan with distinct phases, which allowed them to spread out the economic impact; formed true partnerships with its vendors and contractors; and made use of existing resources, such as the data communications network, to keep costs in check. Herritage finds the upgrade successful on a number of levels: cost savings; in-house control of how security will be used; the excellence and efficiency of thesystem itself with its many options for authorizing access and reporting activity; and demonstrable results. "There are two sites where the security installations are quite new and where we had some theft of computers and paintings before. In the six months since we've installed the integrated system at these sites, there has been no theft at all," says Herritage.

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