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Access control challenges in a changing world - from managing nurse servers in hospitals to securing sterile facilities

Installing access control in stainless steel walls and doors is not only difficult but also aesthetically unappealing
ASSA ABLOY door handles with built in reader, strike, request-to-exit sensor
and door contacts help maintain sterile environment of stainless steel rooms

Access control technology has been around for a long time, but security professionals still run into weird problems when designing and installing systems. For example, when a hospital discovered that it was losing $4,000 per patient bed annually in medicines and other supplies, it asked ASSA ABLOY for an access control solution.

The problem involved nurse servers, which are portable cabinets filled with medicines and supplies and located in or adjacent to patient rooms.

Like portable nursing stations, nurse servers provide a great convenience for nurses. Instead of running back and forth to supply rooms for medicines and other supplies, they can fill up a nurse server with whatever individual patients need.

In a technical sense, no one stole the $4,000 in lost supplies. Instead, busy nurses and physicians often grabbed supplies they needed from the nearest server and used them to treat other patients. “For instance, one nurse might be caring for a special needs patient on a home-care route and lift some supplies from a server while hurrying to get to appointment on time,” says Toby Heath, Electromechanical Specialist with ASSA ABLOY.

While medicines and supplies used to treat the patient in the room would be recorded on the patient’s chart, no one recorded items used for other purposes — hence the losses.

Wireless access control for nurse servers

Why not lock the nurse servers with a key lock? “Of course, you can do that,” says Heath. “But you would still want to know who opens the cabinet. To acquire and store that information, you would need an access control system with a credential log.”

 Heath specified an ASSA ABLOY door contact, locking mechanism and a credential reader for the cabinets.

“The wow factor is that it is a wireless system,” continues Heath. “The mobile nurse servers can go anywhere without wires. So the access system has to be wireless as well. With our wireless systems, the cabinet can go anywhere and still provide a full access control system that logs who goes into the cabinet.”


ASSA ABLOY installed 380 access control systems on nurse servers in a tower expansion of a Midwestern hospital

ASSA ABLOY access control systems with a credential log prevented
unauthorised usage of medical supplies from nurse servers

Those authorised to open the cabinets do so with their hospital access and ID credential.

ASSA ABLOY installed 380 of these systems on nurse servers in a tower expansion of a Midwestern hospital. While the system is so new, the hospital has not been able to tally up the savings yet. According to Heath, hospital officials are confident that losses are way down.

Access control in sterile facilities

Heath encountered another odd access control installation in a factory located in the northwest. “Several rooms within the factory were made with stainless steel panels to create a near sterile environment,” he says. “To maintain the cleanliness standard, management wanted to minimise access to the rooms. The challenge here involved running access control wiring to the doors.”

A typical access control system places contacts on the door and a reader on the wall. Both connect by wire to a local control panel, Heath explains. Two more devices, a request-to-exit sensor and the electric strike within the frame, run wires back to the control panel.

 Shining stainless steel walls and doors made such a conventional installation not just difficult but also aesthetically unappealing.

Instead of gouging the stainless steel,” Heath says, “we used the door handles with all four access control components built in: the reader, strike, request-to-exit sensor and the door contacts. As a single home-run master control, the access controlled door handles minimised damage to the stainless steel during installation, while speeding installation. The integrator handled the entire installation in less than an hour.”

Access control technology, today, can find ways to solve problems that may well have argued against access control in the past. So when you run up against such a problem, ask around. Chances are someone has designed a product or a system that can solve your problem.

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