Healthcare security leaders know that the tools invested in to combat threats are only one piece of the effort to protect what truly matters within their organization: the level of risk associated with the day-to-day operations of a busy hospital or healthcare facility. Security personnel focus on the potential threats at all points in a facility and deploy significant levels of access control and video surveillance that is necessary to facilitate proper protection and response. A forward-thinking plan for addressing risk in a proactive manner is crucial to ensure the safety of patients, staff, data, and infrastructure.

There are a number of factors for healthcare facilities to consider when it comes to identifying physical security challenges and aligning business operations goals in the evaluation of solutions that address risks. Cloud-based solutions are emerging as a viable option for these organizations because of data protection, remote management and cost predictability. However, there are a number of steps that need to be taken to truly realize the benefits that the cloud brings to the healthcare market.

Step 1: Evaluate the Risk

The healthcare vertical is both complex and evolving, bringing to light the management of critical assets as well as the safety and security of some of the most vulnerable people among us. The approach to risk in these facilities is multifaceted and should take a number of factors into account:

  1. The safety of patients, visitors and staff, including the threat of infant abductions and workplace violence as a result of a high-pressure situation.
  2. The theft of personal and hospital property — much of which is valuable equipment and/or prescription medications.
  3. The sharing of sensitive patient information, necessitating the added evaluation of network security.
  4. The need for streamlined emergency management response protocols for any number of potential scenarios.

This leads many to believe that the healthcare sector faces some of the most dangerous threats compared to its counterparts in other vertical markets. The inherent risk and heightened nature of response within a healthcare setting makes it unique in how security leaders and consultants determine the tools necessary to help mitigate threats in a proactive manner. Asking the right risk-based questions enables a manufacturer, consultant or integrator to deliver the proper level of insight and recommendations on moving forward with technology investments.

Step 2: Look Beyond Physical Security

One of the advantages in developing a risk-based approach within any sector is that departments become less siloed and more dedicated to working together to solve a common problem. IT departments are quickly becoming an integral part of physical security decisions, which means that cloud-based solutions are considered even more viable given the infrastructure on which they’re built. The common concern for these departments is the vulnerability identified in networked devices, such as surveillance cameras, which can become a weak link for hackers to gain access to the broader network of a healthcare facility that contains highly personal information that must be protected.

While the security of data in the cloud is a highly discussed issue, the fact of the matter is that with proper protocols in place, the cloud can actually enhance data protection within the healthcare environment. Organizations can reduce their security footprint through the cloud, and by utilizing practices such as vulnerability testing, password etiquette, software patches and encryption, sensitive data can be protected from outside threats. What’s more is that video and access control devices that are managed through a cloud-based service are automatically subject to rigorous updates and testing, ensuring that any potential holes in security are identified early and patched quickly. This severely decreases the likelihood that the network can be compromised from connected devices.

Step 3: Assess the Available Cloud-Based Solutions

Despite the adoption of cloud-based services in multiple areas of organizations (think about how you save files, conduct business and communicate with coworkers), many of these same businesses have resisted the adoption of the cloud for physical security — especially within a healthcare environment.

Most large-scale healthcare facilities have invested in more traditional, on-premise solutions. These require the organization to use proprietary architecture to run the solution within its own data center. All security operations and monitoring therefore take place in house, allowing security leaders to be in control of all decision-making and data handling. However, the investment in infrastructure can be significant, and these solutions often require consistent IT support and training for ongoing updates and maintenance.

On-prem solutions also have the added challenge of having to be on site, making the addition of more remote or disparate facilities cumbersome to manage. Hospitals are an ideal example of this, as they often have a centralized facility that maintains an on-prem system, as well as smaller, “off-campus“ locations, such as doctor’s offices, urgent care centers or even smaller hospitals in remote areas. In this case, deploying a hybrid cloud solution that leverages both the on-prem video management system, as well as the ability to remotely manage and incorporate incoming video from remote sites, can create an innovative and cohesive solution that helps achieve centralized management of an entire healthcare organization.

Even still, pure cloud solutions are quickly becoming ready for enterprise-level adoption, enabling centralized surveillance and data management across an organization. The cloud is an optimal surveillance solution for organizations looking to experience scalability and flexibility when it comes to streamlining video and business operations, as well as identifying the most prominent risks facing the organization. However, many healthcare facilities require a way to fully embrace cloud technology, which is where the adoption of hybrid cloud becomes a viable option.

Step 4: Invest and Continue Improving

Whether an organization invests in an on-premise, hybrid, or pure cloud solution, it’s imperative that the platform is continuously monitored to meet expectations and ensure the best possible results and to proactively address the changing nature of risk inherent in our society today. Additionally, many healthcare organizations find that security solutions are only as good as the employees who use them and having an easy-to-use platform can help elevate the performance of these individuals in an emergency situation.

For many hybrid cloud and pure cloud solutions, the ongoing enhancements and use happens behind the scenes as cloud service providers continually work to find ways to improve the technology. For example, new and advanced analytics capabilities using incoming video data are continually being released in an effort to enhance the user experience. This isn’t always possible with more traditional solutions, as they require more in-depth maintenance and updates.

Cloud Advantages for the Healthcare Market

Within the healthcare sector, there are exponential threats that exist, requiring strategic consideration before being able to justify any one tool or process to help address the risks. Cloud-based solutions bring significant advantages that should be taken into account within the steps listed above, including:

Centralization. One of the most advantageous components of the cloud is its ability to allow the appropriate users to access information from anywhere at any time and from a range of connected devices. All pertinent data is aggregated into one platform, and in the event of a crisis — security or business related — stakeholders can obtain the most relevant and up-to-date information in minutes for an immediate and informed response.

Scalability & Flexibility. As a healthcare organization grows or its technology systems become more advanced, using a cloud solution to store and manage video data allows for rapid adjustment and agility, reducing the complexity that might come with expansion. With the cloud, business owners can gain more insight into daily operations and ensure all organizational and security goals are met on both a day-to-day basis and into the future.

Data Security. It goes without saying that cybersecurity is a significant consideration when considering investments in new tools and infrastructure. The inherent safety of the cloud as it relates to its use of high-level encryption, along with ongoing vulnerability testing and security updates, can make a cloud-based service far more secure than typical on-premise solutions.

Automatic Updates. The cloud takes the burden off of a healthcare facility’s IT departments when it comes to system management, as upgrades and security fixes are automatically installed. This creates the ability to free up IT teams to help enhance additional cybersecurity measures for other systems across the organization.

Cost-Predictability. The investment in a pure cloud services model can be much more predictable for a healthcare organization than a hardware-based model, while the adoption of a hybrid platform can potentially reduce the amount spent on building infrastructure for each site. Deploying a cloud-based solution substantially reduces an upfront capital investment, introducing more of a service-based arrangement instead where users pay for the amount of video data, storage and add-ons they use.

The Changing Nature of Risk

Security is all about recognizing risk and creating layers of protection that comprehensively address potential vulnerabilities across a constantly evolving business. Healthcare organizations are especially familiar with this goal, as the ultimate success of the industry depends on providing safety and security to those that need it most. Understanding this risk is the first step in a long process of selecting the right technology and tools for overall effectiveness, and cloud is emerging as a strong contender to provide the level of protection needed for this industry.

Here is how one leading healthcare provider leveraged cloud to meet evolving and complex needs during the COVID-19 response:

Renown Health, with an entire network of Reno, Nevada, area hospitals, urgent care centers, lab services, x-ray and imaging services, primary care doctors and dozens of medical specialties, is the only locally owned, not-for-profit health system. The system staffs more than 7,000 nurses, doctors and care providers dedicated to the health and well-being of patients every day of the year. Renown Regional Medical Center is a Level 2 trauma center with 808 beds and two emergency rooms and has been recognized as one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Critical Care.

Like all healthcare facilities across the globe, Renown Health has faced the influx of patients infected with COVID-19 and has had to add more beds to handle demand. As a result, Renown Health was propelled to expand its facility to include 10 additional remote, mobile units that support incoming patients that cannot be accommodated in the hospital. Since these locations are not permanent, security leaders needed a way to secure these locations without having to invest in an on-site server or finding an area large enough to store such equipment.

The hospital also turned one of its parking lots into a testing site, which required additional security oversight and the addition of outdoor cameras to alert security when problems arose or assist with investigations.

As an existing customer of Milestone Systems, Renown Health required a solution that integrates seamlessly with the XProtect Video Management Systems (VMS) that could be remotely controlled and monitored through the system. The facility also needed the ability to seamlessly add cameras and infrastructure as their needs changed or expanded — sometimes at a moment’s notice.

Another critical issue was connectivity. In the mobile units, bandwidth challenges also needed to be considered in a solution. A longtime customer of Incline Technology Consulting, Renown Health turned to the company to address the needs of the organization in a way that made the most sense and helped protect not only the facility, but the critical patients and the staff caring for them.

Fighting against significant budget cuts and challenging network connectivity, Incline turned to Arcules to offer a scalable, flexible solution to meet the requirements for physical security. Initially, Incline recommended the Arcules Unified Cloud Security Platform, which seamlessly integrates with both the Axis Communications IP cameras within the remote facility, as well as the Milestone-XProtect VMS. But the limitations around connectivity created a challenge with being able to reap the full benefits of cloud storage.

Arcules worked with Nic Hasler, Founder and President of Incline, to incorporate another way for Renown Health to leverage cloud-based functionality within the limited bandwidth environment: the Arcules Edge Cloud Solution. The Edge Cloud platform allows security leaders to collect and store incoming video data from the Axis cameras on an edge storage device, while being able to remotely view and manage that incoming data via the cloud.

While Renown Health went through a series of reasons for adopting the cloud-based functionality of Arcules, Hasler said the ability for Arcules to be flexible and agile amidst the changing needs of the hospital was one of the best features of the platform. “We’ve gone through a number of iterations of our vision for protecting external areas of the hospital, from the trailers that are housing COVID-19 patients, to the physician parking lots, then later to the parking lot that became another location for physicians and medical personnel to treat patients,” he said. “This is all a testament to the flexibility of the Arcules system.”

The open nature of the Arcules platform also helped streamline the process, and Renown was able to use all of its existing encoders and camera infrastructure without having to completely overhaul existing technology.

“We would eventually like to migrate the entire system to a purely cloud-based video management platform, and the only way that it will work is if the technology supports legacy equipment without having to rip and replace existing cameras,” Hasler said. “The fact that we could begin this process today by adopting Arcules was a huge win toward that goal.”