It’s interesting that cabinet lock development began within the hospital and healthcare industries. Driven by compliance requirements as well as looking for ways to improve their own operations, managers needed efficient and effective ways to secure medical cabinets, pass-through cabinets, equipment lockers and more.
Keyed locksets or combination locks are good to a point, but they have their own management headaches, and they don’t capture who has accessed a cabinet, or when. Many customers, especially those in healthcare, are looking for more flexibility, security control and accountability for their facilities.
Wireless cabinet and server cabinet locks bring real-time, single-card access control to individual cabinet doors. These locks use local wireless communications to connect to existing access control systems, greatly improving the monitoring security of each cabinet. The most convenient systems use existing ID badges so there are no keys to control or replace, and no codes to secure or remember.
With the advancement of wireless technologies and the continued overall reduction in device costs as performance increases, we’re seeing a sharp upsurge in the deployment of electronic locks. From medical facilities and law enforcement to retail and data center, end users are recognizing the value of enhanced security, control, and detailed audit trails possible with cabinet lock level installations.
Approximately 46 percent of a typical hospital’s revenue is in the form of reimbursements from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). This critical revenue is affected by compliance with several metric scores, including the Patient Experience Survey (HCAPS), and the Electronic Medical Records (HIPPA Security Rule). Additionally, re-admissions for hospital-associated infections are not covered by CMS at all, and federal law requires tight control of narcotics. So, when a single solution can benefit a hospital on all of the above points — as with wireless cabinet locks — it’s a valuable solution directly influencing reimbursable revenue.
A Milwaukee-based pediatric care facility, for example, planned renovations to improve their overall patient experience and update facility technology. Each room at this hospital utilized a pass-through cabinet: a double-sided supply cabinet that’s accessible from both the patient room and the hallway, mounted on the wall. In order to reduce installation and maintenance costs of a hard-wired cabinet, wireless cabinet locks were selected for their simple serviceability and the ability to leverage existing access control technology.
By selecting the wireless cabinet lock strategy, the facility was able to avoid the very expensive ceiling-access procedures that require bringing in special equipment including air filtration and dust/infection containment systems and negative air pressure management systems.
A partially-completed mid-western U.S. hospital desired a way to add pharmaceutical control in patient rooms. It was too late in the construction process to pull new wire, so a series of wireless locks were selected and installed inside each room. The pharmacy accesses the cabinet space from the hall with a traditional key. Nurses use their existing badge and do not need to carry a pharmacy key anymore. The hospital is evaluating replacing the corridor key cylinders with wireless locks. Now that the wireless hubs are in place, this is a relatively low-cost upgrade.
A new 100-plus bed patient tower in the greater Chicago area had the challenge of improving patient experience, reducing the spread of infectious disease and complying with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines for securing pharmaceuticals and sharps. A two-way, slide-through drawer was designed with a wireless cabinet lock on each side. Sliding one way opens the drawer in the hallway, sliding the other way opens the drawer in the patient room. This two-way drawer minimizes patient disruption and infection opportunity while controlling pharmaceuticals and sharps (any needles, scalpels, wires, or other items that could cause wounds or punctures to personnel handling them).
Beyond sharps and pharmaceuticals, wireless cabinet locks are also designed to secure data servers. Hospitals and medical facilities with data servers that host sensitive patient information have strict guidelines for regulatory compliance.
Another mid-western U.S. healthcare network determined that controlling access to a network room door was not sufficient for multiple user groups under the HIPPA Security Rule. The HIPPA Security Rule states that equipment that transfers Electronic Medical Records requires physical security, logged maintenance and access control limited to essential personnel. Wireless cabinet locks were added to each rack, allowing access only to essential personnel and logging maintenance via the audit trail.
The above examples illustrate the wide range of benefits of wireless cabinet locks for nurse and patient cabinet applications. The patient experience is improved by the administration of medicines at a time optimal for the patient, and not reliant on the pharmacy department delivery. Infection control is improved by reducing contact with the patient to the nurse in the room and avoiding contact with the pharmacist, and reducing opportunities to spread infection through the use of a central drug station. Narcotics remain under control with a detailed audit trail. Drug diversion can be reduced due to the audit trail of users – reducing hospital liability.
By using their badges as their credential, nurses can avoid the time and inconvenience of manually checking out keys or learning pin codes. Hospitals can avoid the much greater costs of re-keying when a key is lost, or reprogram and retaining pin codes if an employee is terminated. Overall workflow is greatly improved, as a badge presentation is a simple one-handed action rather than finding a key, or entering a pin, allowing nurses to be more efficient.
Additionally, inventory theft can be reduced by controlling and tracking access to syringes, catheters, surgical tubing and other commonly lost items. Shrinkage is estimated to cost hospitals hundreds if not thousands of dollars, per bed, per year. It’s a significant problem that directly impacts the facility’s bottom line.
The requirements for regulatory compliance, asset control, and efficiency improvements also apply to industries beyond healthcare, including municipal government, data centers, and utilities.
In order to comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards, a Texas utility company required upgraded control at the cabinet level. Wireless data cabinet locks were selected due to their integrated reader and real-time monitoring capabilities. By moving security from a cage level to the individual rack level, the utility company was able to manage end-user group access down to specific racks.
Using a wireless cabinet lock in a data center environment can improve operational efficiencies in a several ways that accelerate ROI. Some examples of how costs can be reduced with the use of server rack locks include the maximization of available floor space, reduced security man-hours, improved incident reporting and improved customer satisfaction.
Floor space can be increased by eliminating cages, which are typically deployed to keep rack groups separately controlled. Improved control can be achieved with rack level wireless locks. Rack level control allows access to be granted to the right people at the right time – for instance to a visiting technician for a four-hour window to perform an upgrade. Equally important, access can be revoked when no longer needed.
Access log reports can be provided to internal and external customers to demonstrate that racks have not been modified or tampered with. In a colocation facility, these audit logs can be resold in a higher tier of customer service, increasing revenue and customer satisfaction.
Rack level monitoring allows a security office to see at a glance which racks are open, closed, forced open or propped open alerting to potential incidents more quickly and making incident reporting more thorough and effective in reducing future incidents.
By moving to monitored racks with badged access, security departments can save time and expense currently spent managing keys, including checking keys out, auditing keys and rekeying.
Extending access control to cabinets and drawers is becoming more and more necessary as audit trail and monitoring are becoming increasingly critical. Security teams are looking to utilize the same high level of protection for cabinets and drawers that they deploy at door openings. Easy integration with existing access control systems, a common credential for access plus the affordable deployment make wireless cabinet locks an ideal solution for providing the traceability and control necessary to meet new regulations.
As wireless access control and cabinet lock level systems continue to become easier to use, more powerful and less expensive, they are driving increased opportunity for new security solutions. The wireless lock systems of today have valuable data connectivity capabilities far beyond the standalone, battery-operated locks of the past.
From pharmacy cabinets to data server racks wireless lock systems are an excellent alternative for improving security, meeting requirements, and protecting the bottom line.
About the Author: Adam Auer works for ASSA ABLOY where he has contributed in technical and sales roles. Adam came to the security industry from the embedded computing industry several years ago. His guiding focus has been on the design, development, and deployment of wireless cabinet locks. Adam Auer is a member of ASIS International and can be reached at Adam.Auer