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video surveillance

Photo courtesy of Riverside Health System

Hospital Surveillance Manages Videos and Offers Insight

The Riverside Health System operates four acute care hospitals, two specialty hospitals, six nursing home facilities, and one behavioral health hospital throughout the coastal Virginia region. Across its facilities, more than 600 clinical providers and 9,500 team members help provide medical care for roughly 2 million people every year.

When Darryl Ware became the director of the Riverside Safety and Protection Department in 1997, he cast an eye on revamping the organization’s surveillance system—knowing full well it would be a larger project.
Ware, who comes from a law enforcement background, understood that hospitals and medical facilities face a unique and fluid threat environment. His leading concern was that the majority of threats to hospital facilities, staff, patients, and visitors had shifted from infant abductions to workplace violence, theft, and others.

In the late 1990s, Riverside maintained an open-door policy. “You could literally walk in the front door of any hospital,” Ware says. He wanted to immediately change the set up and compartmentalize parts of the hospital to make it harder for a threat actor to get into any or all areas. “Not only was I concerned about someone just walking in the building, it was that they had access to everything,” Ware recalls.

Some changes included increased access control components, especially between entrances and other more sensitive areas, such as medicine closets, newborn nurseries, and hot labs—laboratories that handle and host radioactive medicines for tests and other medical procedures.

Once you’re able to convince the C-suite and they get on board, they will usually stay on board, especially if you can keep things flat.

But by 2010, Riverside had reached the limit of what it could accomplish with its existing security system—a blend of elements such as older surveillance cameras and newer additions like staff badges. Ware realized that the solution needed here was not simply newer systems, but adaptive ones that could change with the times and the threats.

The previous cameras the hospital used were similar in style to the “old behemoth prison cameras that you see in Burt Reynolds movies,” Ware says, and they stuck in his mind as he began searching for a video management system (VMS). Adaptability was what he wanted from a VMS—not only an ability to play well with security solutions and tools from other manufacturers and developers, but the system needed to also serve as the foundation for the evolution of Riverside’s security.

Ware ultimately landed on Genetec’s Omnicast VMS because it offered a centralized approach to the technology portion of its security detail. First installed between 2012 and 2013, Omnicast allowed Ware and the protection department to monitor, track, and operate access control functions and manage video feeds.

When Ware’s team decided it was finally time to upgrade the analog behemoths to digital cameras, Omnicast provided a key advantage. Since different cameras could be integrated onto the platform, it afforded the department a chance to consider a wider range of different models and manufacturers.

“I considered it a legacy system,” Ware says, but not because it seemed dated or old to him. Instead, Ware adds, he classified it this way because it would leave a long-lasting mark on the hospital system’s security program.

Ware was given the chance in 2020 to update the old, large format surveillance cameras installed along the hallways of Riverside facilities.

Working with his integrator, Ware chose Axis Communications surveillance cameras and received information and specialized training on using the cameras and their various capabilities. Riverside leadership supported the proposal, and the organization began replacing the older cameras.

But for Ware, one of the best features is that the cameras can connect and coordinate with Omnicast. The platform, which is an IP-based VMS, allowed Riverside’s security department to organize the cameras, each one with a unique identifier that indicates its location within a facility to keep feeds organized.

When he was first looking at Omnicast, Ware knew that the system would be able to integrate with smartphones and other mobile devices. Given the organization’s budget constraints, however, these were features that were brought on later—once they became more affordable.

Ware says that the VMS put “the infrastructure in place that I needed—a camera system that I could manage, (covering) well over 186 buildings, spread out over 400 square miles. I could sit in my office and if someone said, ‘Hey, we had a break-in last night,’ I didn’t have to get in my car and travel.” Now, Ware can review the incident and coordinate a response from his computer or smart device.

The newer cameras garnered enough support from both the security department and the C-suite that the organization approved installing IP-based cameras in future facilities.

Another useful benefit of the Omnicast system may initially appear prosaic: timestamps. But Ware is fond of them when reviewing video feeds related to incidents of stolen property or missing pharmaceuticals. The timestamps generated by the VMS help Ware and his team determine who was in the area or room when an item was taken, and security is usually able to identify the thief or thieves using the video feeds.

The feeds’ timestamp function is also helpful in more commonplace instances, such as keeping security staff accountable. Some areas in Riverside’s facilities are sensitive, remote, or require additional security for other reasons. Omnicast links up with installed access card readers to track guard tours, ensuring that these areas are frequently patrolled—in line with the organization’s policies. As they patrol, guards scan their ID cards at readers, which serve as checkpoints. With Omnicast programmed to track the check-ins, Ware can generate a monthly report with data that can help benchmark his department’s effectiveness.

The cameras also cover the healthcare facilities’ parking garages. For one employee, this helped identify an ex-boyfriend who damaged her vehicle while she was working.

The cameras recorded the man driving into the garage, and motion sensing features—which are part of the surveillance software—kept track of him as he exited his truck, crawled underneath two other cars, and slashed all four tires of the employee’s vehicle.

“We were able to get that information to the police prior to the team member getting off work and discovering all of this,” Ware says.

While the Omnicast VMS and security department were unable to prevent the damage to the car, the tools and team together played a key part in preventing the man from directly confronting and possibly harming the employee.

Ware plans to continue branching this system out and connecting with future security solutions. One upcoming project is an entrance weapons detection solution, which Ware says he is confident will have the backing of the C-suite since the newer solution with Omnicast will operate as a crime deterrent and keep attack statistics steady.

“Once you’re able to convince the C-suite and they get on board, they usually will stay on board, especially if you can keep things flat,” Ware says.

For more information, contact Genetec’s Mark Feider, [email protected]