Although creating a good impression during parking and intake can enhance the patient experience, patient transition zones can become first attack zones outside the usual perimeter of hospital security. With many hospitals reducing hospital security budgets, technology can provide a solution.
Numerous studies demonstrate hospital treatments tend to have more positive outcomes when patients trust their health care systems. The reason for trust being such an important factor is that patients with low levels of trust are more likely to suffer psychological distress and less likely to accept healthcare recommendations; while patients with high levels of trust will be more likely to attend follow-up appointments and be more accepting of therapies that require behavioral change.
Building trust starts with the first impression as patients enter the hospital environment. The parking and intake process - sometimes referred to as the “patient transition zone” - is the first opportunity hospitals have to create an impression, and it needs to be a good impression. Research conducted by Ohio State University's Fisher School of Business found that, when people form a first impression, they tend to stick with it and interpret subsequent signals consistent with the first impression - good or bad.
To provide the best possible first impression, some hospitals provide services such as valet parking and/or attendants whose job it is to “meet and greet” patients as they arrive to guide them through the intake process. In addition to providing useful and welcoming services, staff in the roles of valets and patient attendants help hospitals address the three primary factors that contribute to patients' bad first impressions - long wait times, poor communication, and a lack of empathy.
The Patient Transition Zone is Also the First Attack Zone
By their nature, patient transition zones are outside hospital premises and therefore outside the usual perimeter of hospital security. This leaves valets and patient attendants in the first line of attack without the same level of protection as employees within the hospital. Not only might they be the initial targets of an active shooter, they are also likely to be the subject of physical attacks if an event (i.e. a long wait or communication breakdown) triggers a violent reaction from an anxious patient or family member.
To address this issue, hospitals could expand the security perimeter and allocate security personnel to protect patient transition zones. These security officers would have to be trained in behavioral health to complement the training given to patient attendants; which would either involve spending more money at a time when many hospitals are trimming their security budgets, or diluting existing security inside the hospital premises at a time when hospitals are reporting an increase in security incidents.
An alternative solution is to issue staff working outside the security perimeter with employee safety apps. The apps can be used to call hospital security when concerns exist that a situation (caused - for example - by a long wait or communication breakdown) could escalate into a violent incident. The apps can also be used to collect anonymous tips from employees.
Why Mobile Employee Safety Apps are the Most Effective Solution
Mobile employee safety apps are widely used in many different environments to improve security responses to violent incidents. They are more accessible than wall-mounted or desk-mounted panic buttons (which would naturally be inappropriate in a patient transition zone with neither walls nor desks), and more reliable than wearable devices that connect with a central unit, because these systems inform 9-1-1 of the location of the central unit and not the location of the emergency.
Furthermore, when employees supply employees with wearable panic buttons, the employee has responsibility for keeping the panic button charged and remembering to wear it on duty. Few people forget to charge or carry their mobile devices; and while it may take a second longer to tap a mobile screen than press the button on a wearable device, the minutes saved by informing 9-1-1 or security immediately of the exact location and the nature of the emergency can save multiple lives.
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