Last year, in a written reply to a question in the Legislature, Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa revealed that 107 nurses had been attacked in hospitals between January 2016 and September 2017. According to the MEC many of the attacks took place at night or over the weekend, particularly in the casualty departments of hospitals.

By Roy Alves, Country Manager for Axis Communications

Her revelations highlighted an ongoing concern, that of the safety of healthcare givers and patients at hospitals and clinics. Delivering solutions to this issue are challenging as South Africa’s health services faces many challenges including, overcrowding, a lack of funding and limitations around staffing.

One way of improving the safety and security for both hospital personnel and patients is through video surveillance. A network video solution offers a wide range of possibilities to make a hospital less attractive for break-ins and robberies. The benefits include a safer work environment and reduced costs. It can also be used to safeguard hospital staff from workplace violence, prevent drug diversion and supply theft, protect infants from abduction or mix-ups, restrict unwanted visitor access, and visualise and communicate with those in distress, particularly high-risk patients.

The use of intelligent cameras with motion detection and active tampering alarms helps to quickly detect suspicious actions prior to a crime as offenders often tamper with cameras prior to something happening. In intelligent systems cameras automatically send images to a security guard’s phone or tablet if any of the cameras are tampered with, which also saves time wasted in responding to false alarms.

While networked based technologies will lead to improved security it is not the only benefit that can be derived from surveillance. Intelligent video, access control and audio solutions are enabling forward-thinking healthcare institutions around the world to apply new technology in lots of exciting and unexpected ways. The images captured by these systems are fast becoming the one of the most comprehensive application tools at the disposal of healthcare facilities.

In addition to addressing security issues, healthcare facilities can use cameras to improve patient care. South Africa’s health services face heavy patient loads and are hamstrung by staffing issues. As a result, it is simply not possible to provide continuous physical monitoring for all critically ill and high-risk patients. Intelligent video cameras allow hospital stuff to securely monitor multiple patients remotely or from a central nursing station using a variety of closed system, live viewing solutions designed to strike the right balance between privacy and clarity for clinical needs.

This also allows hospitals to replace patient sitters with virtual patient watch, freeing up hospital staff to perform other critical functions. It also improves fall detection, a major cause of injury among high-risk patients. Risk of fall is a common nursing diagnosis, related to several factors such as age, use of anesthetics and level of consciousness. In the case of a patient falling, the response time is critical. Always on monitoring such as that offered by intelligent camera systems means healthcare facilities can respond quicker when patients have fallen and injured themselves.

Network based camera systems can also help to improve hospital operations and services. Over-crowding, inefficient patient flow and hospital acquired infections are just a few of the operational challenges that can negatively impact a hospital. Today smart hospitals are applying technology to meet these challenges and improve operational efficiency, patient satisfaction and overall profitability. The systems allow administrators to monitor processes and staff compliance and improve patient flow and service cycle time. Some systems are so sophisticated that they can create more humanised environments by recognising when they need to play background music.

Another key advantage of connected systems is the advancement of clinical medicine. Visual observations and medical consultation have always been vital to ensure a correct diagnosis and good patient outcome. Medical professionals can now use connected audio and video to improve their diagnostic capabilities, perfect their clinical skills and teamwork, and advance the science of medicine. Clinicians can use video to aid remote diagnoses and treat illness before a patient is even admitted and continue treatment after they are discharged.

From a training point of view, cameras can be used to record medical skills training and assessment, broadcast groundbreaking surgeries to the medical community and to protect and document clinical research findings.

By embracing future technology healthcare facilities can create a positive impact on patient care. New technologies help diminish loss, identify potential risks, and improve operational efficiency. Video surveillance cameras, which used to be only part of the hospital CCTV system, are becoming communication and data capturing devices on the network. This can enhance patient satisfaction, patient care and, above all, enable automatic, efficient and safe processes.

Seeing cameras as sensors opens new possibilities, and each one of them responds to typical demands inside a healthcare facility. Hospitals that have already embraced the versatility of network-based video surveillance are leading the technology transition by combining cameras with access control and audio systems on their IT networks.

In the future, hospitals will have video surveillance cameras that will capture data continuously to assess risks, generate automatic alerts, streamline processes, and analyse large volumes of data, with surgical precision.