Healthcare Security and Safety Executives

Eighty hospital security, public safety and emergency management pros predict what healthcare security and safety will look like in the post-pandemic world.

The International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) recently asked its professional members to predict coming trends in healthcare security and safety, particularly in light of experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty members replied.

Below, IAHSS presents excerpts that reflect the range of views they expressed. The excerpts have been edited for clarity — and to remove some repetition of the consensus that health screening, strict access control and tight visitor management are here to stay.

The Big Picture

Jeff Fort, Safety and Health Officer, MDVA Minneapolis Veterans Home: 

I predict that preparation for civil disturbance and disobedience will continue to rise over the next year or so, especially in urban areas. Practices that will become lasting trends include respiratory (N95) protection, tracking of PPE, development and improvement of HVAC systems to be able to create negative-airflow wards and mental resiliency.

In the future, contracted security will be part of stronger pandemic and emergency contingency staffing plans. There will be continued process improvement of workplace violence in healthcare. I am hopeful for improved online incident reporting methods that integrate with camera-monitoring programs. That way, when you bring up an incident, it is tied to the camera for that area, improving on the investigation process.

Sarah Miller, Director of Operations, Synergy Protection: 

During the pandemic, emergency and business continuity plans, particularly pandemic plans, will get refreshed out of necessity. Worker shortages, the strain of the pandemic on people’s mental health, and facilities constantly being at or above surge capacity will continue to focus efforts and resources while leaving other areas vulnerable.

Practices that will last include virtual meetings, PPE use in regular interactions, and permanently increased security budgets for select risks. This specialization has been highlighted globally because of the pandemic. More people will want to get into it; people who haven’t done their jobs adequately will be removed; and training like IAHSS designations will become even more valuable. Facilities without security will consider adding security programs.

Richard Jenkins, Security Director, G4S:

As violence in healthcare continues to rise, corporations will have to consider more and more training and licensing for officers trained specifically in healthcare security to mitigate liability. This is a growing industry with potential for officers to have rewarding careers.

However, if administrations do not bring compensation packages up to meet the need to attract quality officers, it will stall and not be more than bodies standing around. State Consumer Affairs Departments need to set high training and compensation packages for this industry, much like they have for the automotive repair industry.

Ryan King, Corporate Manger Security, Safety and Emergency Management, UF Health Central Florida:

Hopefully, more technology will be used to address productivity issues, and security officers will be included in other roles, such as safety and emergency management, allowing better training in the public safety realm.

Loss prevention has taken on a new view, especially internal. Crowd control similar to that applied for civil disturbances is now a normal part of security daily duties (such as for vaccine lines). Infrastructure hardening, such as installing bollards, will probably be done more to protect against extremist and civil issues related to healthcare.

I do think more can be done remotely. Security Operations Centers (SOCs) can be leveraged for more than just dispatch and camera monitoring. Remote sign-in and appointments can help with visitor control.

Keith Karel, Security Director, HSS: 

With limited resources due to limited services (surgery) as the pandemic continues, budgets will become tighter. That will mean less available human resources and little to no spending on security infrastructure. As the pandemic lets go, there will still be a lag on hospital income, but eventually (2022) things will get better. There is a tremendous pent-up need for hospital services.

Bryan Warren, President/Chief Consultant, WarSec Security:

Legislative action will probably be taken regarding workplace violence, requiring many organizations to revamp their current training curriculums. I also predict that healthcare security personnel will continue to be tasked with more and more nontraditional duties as a cost savings measure, such as staffing visitor-management desks, patient transports. There will be more reliance on contract security agencies to provide personnel for these types of tasks.

Many organizations will seek budget restrictions for support services including security; leaders in the industry need to prepare for validation of their current resources as well as justification for any additional resources that they might need. Due to the negative financial impact to many healthcare organizations of fewer elective procedures and other losses of revenue, healthcare security professionals need to be prepared now more than ever to interpret their value when it comes to the C-suite.

Tony York, Executive Vice President Paladin Security Group: 

Physical security staffing will be more varied in its deployment due to business intelligence and predictive analytics helping drive where resourcing will be placed. Violence in healthcare will continue to rise, and more violence data will be collected.

The importance and professionalism of the healthcare security industry have both increased in the wake of COVID. Training of healthcare staff will continue to increase as violence in healthcare continues to seep into other, very strategic pores of the organization (i.e., organizational & reputational risk).

Wayne Byrd, Director of Security, McLeod Health: 

While stressful for all, the pandemic has been an opportunity for security to show its worth in protecting the campus and providing support to the clinical staff. I look for more support and even possible expansion of the security programs.

Tom Smith, President, Healthcare Security Consultants, Inc.: 

I believe healthcare security professionals will increasingly be asked to participate in renovation and design of new facilities, and the new edition of the Security Design Guidelines for Healthcare Facilities 3rd Edition, will be of great assistance.

I believe the future is bright for leaders who stepped up to solve the problems they were faced with due to COVID-19. Many of the COVID-19 problems were solved with a collaborative approach and application of security measures we have always used. However, HCF senior leaders can now see the value of applying good physical security practices every day as well as for emergency situations.

Marc Tryon, Senior Director Safety and Security, St. Peter’s Health Partners:

We will have further integration of security into the clinical health team as an asset for delivery of service; elevated involvement with senior leaders to tackle local, regional or national health challenges; and an emphasis on workplace violence, pandemic response, social justice and system preparedness for all hazards.

Restricted visitation, protection of supplies, pandemic emergency preparedness and threat assessment strategies will become lasting trends. The demand for sophisticated strategies will elevate the skill set and expertise to a much higher level.

Thomas Rhoades, Chief of Police, Parkview Health:

Over the next year and beyond, we will continue to see more hospitals choosing to have a law enforcement presence on their campuses by creating their own police departments. This trend has already begun but will continue to grow.

Tim Burke, Regional Director, OSF Little Company of Mary Medical Center:

Trends ahead include many unarmed hospitals transitioning to armed officers using Tasers and/or firearms. The pandemic has had a negative financial impact on almost every healthcare organization. Often, it is departments like security and other frontline departments that are most affected when budgets are cut. This is a great opportunity for healthcare security departments to become more innovative and broaden the scope of services they provide and to become more valuable in the overall delivery of healthcare. Healthcare security will be changing much like many other service lines in healthcare. The innovation will need to come from within and not from the C-suite.

Daily Operations

Jeffrey Oliver, Corporate Security Director/Chief of Police, Atrium Health: 

I predict a less-open environment, tighter controls over who is in healthcare facilities and why, and tighter controls on visitation. Post-pandemic, healthcare security and safety will become a greater focus. There will be more appetite for touchless systems and remote screening and interaction. Technology applications will become more prevalent.

Dan Yaross, Director, Protective Services, Nationwide Children’s Hospital:

Facilities may be addressing their lobbies’ footprints in order to create efficient visitor screening and staging areas.

Kenneth Wheeler, Director, Security Services, North Mississippi Medical Center: 

There will be a shift towards more screening of entrances (increase in staffing), use of CCTV analytics (increase in capital spending) and security risk assessments (accountability). Post-pandemic, there will be increased need for well-trained/certified security staff.

Gordon Miller, Team Leader, The Security Centre Limited (TSCL):

As COVID-19 persists, infection prevention and control considerations will affect every aspect of security. Hand hygiene will definitely stay, as will cleaning workstations/work areas at the start of shifts.

David Beltran, Director of Security/Emergency Management Coordinator, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County:

Body-removal techniques with body bags and identification and accountability will be reviewed.

Calvin Millar, Director, William Osler Health System (WOHS): 

We will be looking at more nontraditional hospital issues (e.g., supporting vaccine centres, assessment centres and patient care outside of the hospital footprint, such as field hospitals). Lasting practices will involve securing the supply chain, security audits for storage areas, screening and further integration in supporting clinical operations and decisions.

Justin Hawkins, Director, Safety and Security, Norton Brownsboro Hospital: 

There will be an increase in overall job load for the average healthcare security officer.

Mary Fanning, Assistant VP Nursing/Associate CNO, WVU Medicine:

Increased episodes of workplace violence will likely occur related to visitation restriction, and there will be healthcare security workforce retention concerns related to the intense working environments. We will need continued leadership support to assure a secure working environment for healthcare workers to assure quality patient care.

Heidi Brody, Supervisor, Safety & Security, Lakeview Hospital:

Roles will continue to evolve as the virus declines. Hospitals are likely to continue visitor tracking and screening and providing proper PPE. Security may need to manage new processes as we learn more about what we did right and wrong during the COVID response.


Scott Normandin, Exec Director, Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness, Baptist Health System:

COVID introduced, for some, the opportunity to introduce new and innovative technologies. After COVID-19, many of these technologies can either be repurposed for other uses or remain in place serving the needs of the system.

Sean McGinley, Senior Director, Security Operations, Geisinger: 

I expect more reliance on security technologies with AI and advanced visitor control systems.

Chad Rioux, Security Operations Manager, Connecticut Children’s: 

We will become even more technology based and interactive, using facial recognition, appearance search, touchless options. We will have the ability to perform searches and recognize things that the human eye misses.

COVID has forced many hospitals and departments to fast forward their approach and begin using technology that thrives on touchless options, analytics, artificial intelligence. Security equipped with state-of-the-art technology will be a huge advancement in the security field.

Linda Glasson, Consultant (Retired):

I predict more use of technology, data and trending analytics. Security will be used for access control not only at primary egress but at secondary access to certain clinical areas (at clinical insistence) until a certain percentage of individuals have received COVID vaccine.

New programs will be implemented to coordinate and prioritize the data. We will look at lessons learned. We have to be very careful to maintain the human factor, as there may be overreliance on technology and artificial intelligence. We have to be careful not to lose our humanity and compassion to technology and data.

Alan Butler, SVP Healthcare Security, HSS, Inc.: 

There will be more scrutiny of security/police forces that carry weapons and a request for more data around the use of force inside healthcare. There will be fewer FTE’s and more technology. Data will be more of a factor in buying decisions than ever before. More consolidation of healthcare organization will drive the buying decision to group purchasing organizations, and focus will be placed on affordability.

Cameron Ellison, Chief of Police, Ascension St Vincent Heath: 

Leaders will be more connected and aware of Incident Command Structure and usage. Systems will communicate common threats more openly. Healthcare will continue to improve technological screening capabilities to include thermal screening not only for temperatures of individuals but also for the presence of weapons.

Emergency Management

Marcus Smith, Security Manager, Touchette Regional Hospital: 

Pandemic training will be added to required emergency management training.

Paul Calandra, Founder, President, Chief Consultant, CP Consultants, Inc.:

All of the updated emergency procedures that have been developed will obviously remain in place, or at least they will be available for future situations. I believe healthcare will be in a better place and better prepared for future situations. If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that we need to always be prepared and willing to change our policies and procedures as situations arise.

Cole Morris, Principal, Cole on Security, LLC: 

COVID has emphasized the need for increased training in the ICS protocols and prevention of hospital-acquired infections.

William Myers, Manager, Police & Security, UPMC:

Temporary measures that organizations put in place will become more permanent. By now, organizations should have amended their emergency operations plans to include a pandemic appendix, which includes PPE, staffing, reduced building access, work from home and other mitigation strategies. Whether another wave of COVID strikes or a new virus, all organizations should take their best practices from this year and include them in their hazard vulnerability analysis and long-term planning.

We have seen the importance of having access to the proper PPE, fit testing, education and training, and re-thinking the way in which staff and visitors access our buildings. As we eventually bring the pandemic under control, the lessons learned from 2020 should not be shelved but etched in our planning and operations. The further we get away from the pandemic, organizations should factor a pandemic into tabletop or live exercises to remember how we functioned because of staff exposures, mandatory quarantine, and time away from work, and remember the safety measures we now use on a daily basis to screen staff and visitors.

As with any disaster, as time passes, we tend to forget; however, this year should remind everyone of the need for proper pandemic planning and occasional refresher training.


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