Four keys to successful hospital visitor management during the COVID-19 pandemic

As we all struggle to wrap our arms around the growing COVID-19 crisis, managing visitor access in healthcare facilities is becoming more and more a focus of our efforts. As healthcare security experts, many of our organizations are rightly looking to us to MacGyver quick access control solutions for facilities designed to be wide open and welcoming to the public. This includes partnering with infection prevention and clinical partners to ensure screening is occurring around the clock. Here are four tips for engineering the right solution.

Reduce entry points: Reduce the number of entries to as few as possible in order to funnel all traffic flow. This sounds easy, but far easier to say than do. Facilities must reduce the number of entrances into their facilities as quickly as possible in order to ensure adequate screening protocols are implemented. This means locking doors most people are accustomed to entering and exiting from, and all the confusion and frustration associated with that decision. Chances are you can do with far less entrances than most people believe, and this includes restricting employee access points as well. The trick is looking for the natural choke points associated with your normal traffic flows. A successful restricted visitor access plan hinges on a successful reduction of entrances.

Signage is critical: You need signs… lots of signs. The more signs the better. Signage needs to be big. It needs to use simple language, and it needs to send a simple message. Now is not the time to outline your full COVID-19 policy. Effective signage needs to help funnel traffic towards your choke points and help reduce confusion and frustration by sending a crystal-clear message. The impact of poor signage cannot be understated.  

Tag your visitors: Once screened, visitors must be tagged to show they have been screened. The simplest measure for this is a sticker or wrist band. No matter what you use, they must be visually marked in order to ensure all staff can help monitor for those who may have circumvented your perimeter. Once started, hold the line, people without the tag must go to a screening point immediately. This includes vendors, contractors, and everyone in-between. In addition to tagging the visitors, restrict the numbers. Unless you are dealing with an end of life scenario, then set a limit. I recommend no more than two, and here again you must hold the line. Now is the time to set firm standards, no exceptions.

Limit the use of security staff as screening points: Unless your facility already staffs every entrance with security staff, this is not the job for them. Use other staff. Screening can be performed by anyone who can competently follow a screening algorithm. There are plenty of staff needing hours to work as well. As some areas close or reduce staff due to low volumes this frees up staff for use in this role. Security must remain mobile and responsive. Your security staff should be rounding and checking each screening point, and each screening point must be able to call on security quickly. Don’t make the mistake of locking your security staff down to a screening checkpoint and loosing that valuable resource for response elsewhere in the facility.

What are your thoughts on restricted visitation protocol? How are you reducing access to your facility during the COVID-19 crisis? Join the conversation in the comments below, and don’t forget to like, follow and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.

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