If your healthcare facility wants to secure access to the front door, a data room, cafeteria or sensitive laboratory — think biometrics. These systems are affordable, practical, easy to install and users like them. Plus, there are many reference sites.
A biometric device identifies a person via a unique human characteristic, such as the size and shape of a hand or face or the pattern of a fingerprint. As a result, biometrics ensure the bad guys stay out and the good guys get in. When used for time and attendance applications, biometrics attest that the person clocking in is really who she says she is, eliminating timecard fraud caused by buddy punching.
Besides increased security, one of the biggest selling points for biometrics is that they can eliminate the need for keys or cards. While keys themselves don't cost much and dramatic price reductions have lowered the capital cost of the cards in recent years, the true benefit of eliminating them is realized through reduced administrative efforts.
That's because a lost card or key must be replaced and reissued. There is a price associated with the time spent to complete this seemingly simple task but, when added up, the overall administration of a key or card system is costly. Hands and fingers are not lost, stolen or forgotten.
For those using cards, biometrics add another layer of protection. For instance, once a badge is lost, the time from when the badge is misplaced to the time that it is subsequently reported, that badge is still alive and active in the access control system. By adding a biometric to the access control system, a badge alone cannot be used to gain access. For instance, if your customer uses hand geometry technology, both the badge and the person's hand are required. Thus, you have eliminated this highly probable, prospective breach.
Of special importance for the healthcare industry, terminals for security applications and terminals for time and attendance incorporate use an advanced antimicrobial technology to reduce the spread of micro-organisms on its platens, where the users rests her hand. A special silver-based agent is embedded into the materials used to produce the platen of the biometric hand geometry units, providing a hygienic finish that resists bacterial degradation.
A cost-effective solution
Aspirus Wausau Hospital in Wausau, Wis., serves the healthcare needs of residents of Wausau and a 12-county region of northern and central Wisconsin. The hospital's previous card-based system had reached full capacity and it would frequently freeze up.
Today, the healthcare facility uses 50 biometric hand readers to ensure only authorized individuals access hospital grounds. More than 3,000 Aspirus Wausau employees are enrolled in the biometric system.
The front entrance is locked down after visiting hours and only authorized individuals can enter at that point. The hand readers are networked and all security systems are monitored from the security department's dispatch center.
“We chose biometrics because of the high cost of using access control cards,” said Greg Pehlke, security supervisor for the hospital. “We were spending $2,000 a month on smart cards with computer chips, which employees were simply loaning to unauthorized individuals. Much of this cost, and the security breaches, have been eliminated with the hand readers.”
Time and attendance at hospice
Community Hospice uses HandPunch terminals for its employees to clock in and clock out at its multiple locations throughout the greater Modesto, Calif., area. Depending on which of the locations are reporting, attendance data is transmitted via TCP/IP network or dial-up.
“Previously, our timekeeping was done manually, relying on handwritten time cards and then calculated,” said Elaine Orozco, payroll clerk for Community Hospice. “We were spending too much time with manual processing. Plus we ran the risk of employees filling out timecards for their friends. With our HandPunch terminals, we are able to eliminate the worry of buddy-punching.”
Today, employees swipe their ID badges or manually enter a PIN number into the HandPunch terminal and lay their hands on the unit's platen to begin their shifts. They also do likewise to punch in and out for lunch and at the end of their shifts.
“The first time our employees used the HandPunch, they were wowed and surprised at how the technology works,” adds Orozco. “Today, as a result of using the HandPunch and our new time and attendance software, we are assured of accurate records while saving our managers and myself much processing time.”
As the organization continues to grow, Orozco reports that all future sites will have HandPunch units.
A tailored application
Biometric readers can be standalone or networked, and integrate easily into all popular access control and/or time and attendance systems. Best of all, in most cases, biometrics look just like a card reader to an access control system.
* Standalone systems. Many biometrics are available in a standalone configuration. Such devices are not only a biometric but also a complete door controller for a single door. Users are enrolled at the unit and their biometric template is stored locally for subsequent comparison. The actual comparison is accomplished within the unit and a lock output is energized depending on the outcome.
* Networked systems. Many access control applications have a need to control more than one door. While multiple standalone units could be employed, a network of biometric readers offers many advantages. The most obvious is centralized monitoring of the system. Alarm conditions and activity for all the doors in the system are reported back to the security management system. All transactions are stored on the computer's disk drive and can be recalled for a variety of user-customized reports.
* Smart card systems. Integrating biometrics with smart cards is fast becoming the defacto access control solution that leading resellers are adding onto the systems they sell. For instance, a single smart card can store both the user's ID number and biometric template. Because of this, there is no need to distribute hand templates across a network of readers or require the access control system to manage biometric templates. This means integration to any existing access control application is greatly simplified, eliminating extra network infrastructure costs. Because the template only resides on the card, the solution also eases individual privacy concerns.
A smart card reader is embedded into the biometric reader. A plastic cardholder is affixed to the side of the unit. The verification process takes approximately one second and is virtually foolproof.
* Third-party system integration. The most common way to integrate biometrics is through “card reader emulation.” This method is very effective when the goal of an access control system is to control where people, not credentials, can and cannot go, only a biometric device truly provides this capability to your end user. There are biometric systems available today, which economically meet the needs of almost any healthcare access control application. HBI
Jon Mooney is general manager - Biometrics for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. He can be reached at 317-810-3700. Healthcare Building Ideas 2008 April-May;4(4):48-52