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How one hospital battled COVID with a video camera

How one hospital battled COVID with a video camera A success story with best practices when working in the healthcare vertical

YARMOUTH, Maine—A few months ago, COVID upended the normality of the healthcare system, healthcare facilities and the daily, life-saving work of healthcare workers. Hospitals scrambled to meet the influx of infected people, while frontline healthcare workers begged for the rather simple things they were taught to always have when engaging with sick people — personal protection equipment (PPE) — which was and still is scarce. 

“Limiting unnecessary contact with COVID-19 patients is critical to reducing the spread of infection,” Mary Pat Voll, CPNP, board certified pediatric nurse practitioner, told Security Systems News. “Every time healthcare personnel enters a COVID room, even with full PPE, they are risking potential exposure to the virus.” 

It was (and in some places still is) literal chaos, as sick patients poured in through hospitals doors, terrified and sick, not knowing if today would be their last. 

“Unfortunately, shortages in the PPE supply chain left hospital workers ill-equipped to appropriately care for COVID-19 patients,” Mary Pat Voll said. “Many healthcare providers fear for their lives as conservative strategies are enforced, such as re-wearing single-use, respiratory masks.”

Something had and has to give, and who knew it would be a video camera that would provide safety, and a level of comfort and protection during a world-wide pandemic.

A hospital, a doctor, and a security dealer and integrator

Matt Vincent, owner of Smart Solutions, LLC, a security integration company serving Kentucky and Tennessee, has forged a tight relationship with a local doctor serving the Bowling Green, Ken. area, providing security solutions for the doctor’s residential home, lake home and businesses. 

“Dr. Carter has reached out to us [Smart Solutions] in the past for solutions that no one else could offer or figure out,” Vincent said. “That’s why he reached out to us on the hospital’s behalf for a solution to keep the medical staff safe while battling COVID-19.” 

After learning all the caveats necessary to fit the needs of the hospital, Vincent reached out to trusted colleague Jake Voll, president of SS&SI Dealer Network. 

“This application was unique,” Jake Voll explained. “I asked for details on the application. ‘What were the end user’s challenges? What specifically did they need to see? How would healthcare providers use the cameras to interact with patients?’” 

As Vincent answered Jake Voll’s questions and provided other necessary details, “must-haves” for this hospital application emerged: technology that could monitor and offer a way to communicate with COVID-positive patients to minimize unnecessary contact and use of PPE.

“We needed two-way voice cameras, reliable connectivity and HIPAA compliance,” Jake Voll said. “We also needed something that would be easy to deploy, cost effective and SECURE! Alarm.com’s WellCam offered all of that plus high definition and a wide field of view, 180-degrees.” 

And, since Security Solutions was already an Alarm.com dealer, “it was a no brainer to go this route,” Vincent added. 

A safe installation

Vincent decided to install one WellCam on site for the hospital to demo for a week to help them decide if this solution was a fit. The WellCam enabled patient care with remote monitoring via WellCam’s 180-degree camera with 1080p resolution and 6mp zoom and direct communication via the solution’s “call-out” button that initiates a hands-free call via an app, putting medical personnel straight through to the WellCam’s speaker. Placing a WellCam in a COVID-positive patient’s room empowered medical professionals to provide high-quality care at a safe distance and without using PPE.

“They loved it!” exclaimed Vincent. “They loved all the features, especially being able to view the [medical] monitors and the patient(s), and also being able to have two-way communication with the patient. This solved the exposure and PPE issue all in one solution.” 

With such positive feedback, Vincent placed an order with SS&SI, and the very next day, he had 40 WellCams at the ready. “Jake’s prompt response time helped us serve the hospital and deliver the 'WOW' factor.” 

Now Vincent had to ensure his techs were safe during the installation of the 40 cameras. 

“It is imperative that security techs be properly educated on infection control protocols and proper PPE use prior to installing equipment in any environment, especially the healthcare setting,” Mary Pat Voll educated. “Ideally, the patent room would be vacant and sanitized prior to installation to ensure low risk of exposure.” 

And, that’s exactly what the Kentucky hospital did. 

“The hospital had every floor of the COVID-19 wing evacuated and sanitized for our safety,” Vincent said. “We worked with the hospital’s IT staff to get the cameras on the network and then started installing them in every room on the third and fourth floor of the COVID-19 wing.” 

Why Alarm.com’s WellCam

Right from the start, Vincent and Jake Voll decided to work with Alarm.com on this project. 

“Aside from the right specs, they have a Health & Wellness team who understand the vertical,” Jake Voll said. “They were very cooperative, even to the point of having their Director of Health & Wellness, Lainie Muller involved.” 

Mary Pat Voll added that with the continued advisement of social distancing, hospitals seek reasonable ways to distance healthcare workers form contagious patients. 

“WellCam does just that by allowing two-way voice and HD video communication between healthcare providers and patients,” she said. “Less exposures equals less illness!” 

In addition, Alarm.com has a comprehensive HIPAA compliance program and an easy-to-use onboarding process with Authorized Alarm.com Service Providers. 

Since the installation, the hospital has served more than 300 COVID-positive patients from surrounding areas in Ken. and Vincent that the hospital workers are amazed by the implementation.

“I learned from working with the hospital that network security is one of the biggest challenges and working with the IT staff to accomplish any network-related task is key,” said Vincent. “We had the privilege to work alongside the doctors and make sure we trained all the staff to make sure they were fluent in how to use the app. We also learned that the medical field is a section of the market we had previously overlooked but now, we’re putting actions in place to target this vertical.” 

Taking a deeper dive into the hospital vertical

When it comes to security solutions for hospitals, key elements include connectivity, security, privacy and deployment. It is imperative to coordinate and foster a positive working relationship with hospitals’ IT personnel.

“As it relates to connectivity, integrators working in a healthcare facility have to understand that their networks are going to be seriously restricted,” educated Jake Voll. “Expect to coordinate with their IT staff and ideally create a dedicated Local Area Network (LAN) for devices with a separate internet service. Without your own network, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to implement and service networked devices at scale.” 

In addition is the concern of network security and privacy requirement of healthcare providers. 

“Coordinate with the facility’s IT personnel to ensure their network security requirements are met and partner with manufacturers and platform providers who understand security and privacy requirements in a hospital setting,” Jake Voll advised.

During hospital deployments, security integrators need to realize that the facility could already be fully operational; therefore, time is of the essence. 

“You need technology that can be implement quickly — especially at a time when every room and bed is needed.”

To be successful serving the hospital vertical, partnership is of top importance. When Jake Voll looks to partner with solutions providers, he searches for solutions that are easy for his dealers to sell and install, opting to partner with manufacturers that offer great products, marketing resources and support before, during and after the sale.

“I stress this with our manufacturers because our dealers/integrators are our point of sale,” he said. “If they don’t sell, neither do we.”

As with any vertical, understanding the pain points for a prospective end user keeps manufacturers, dealers and integrators focused on the most important part of any deployment — successfully solving or mitigating problems. 

“It’s easy to get lost in specs and forget that customers aren’t paying for a product as much as their paying for a solution to whatever problem or potential problem they're trying to solve or mitigate,” said Jake Voll. “Increasingly, we need to understand how the dealer and their end user expect to interact with the product(s) and how they expect it to work within a larger ecosystem of connected products.” 

An opportunity created by COVID

The security industry as a whole is fortunate in that it was, and is, considered an essential service, not being forced to shutter during the initial phase of discovering COVID in the United States, nor anytime thereafter. This puts the industry in a special place to really help people by embracing the concept of “do-it-together” installs. 

“Systems can be shipped directly to subscribers and techs can walk end users through installation and testing over the phone,” said Jake Voll. “Self-installs accounted for nearly half the market for security systems, according to Parks Associates, prior to COVID.” 

This brings up the hot topic of DIY taking over professional installers, eventually pushing them out of the market. However, Jake Voll has something to say about that: “I think pros stand a better chance of cutting into THEIR market share by offering professional-grade equipment, professional support from an experience tech and local service as needed.”  

All things considered when it comes to COVID, we really ARE ALL in this together; it’s impossible not to be, since the whole planet humans call home has been and continues to be affected greatly by this, at present, incurable virus.

“My heart goes out to those who have been impacted by COVID, including the frontline workers who put their lives on the line to care for others,” Mary Pat Voll said. “As a healthcare worker, I never imagined caring for patients in substandard conditions under crisis guidelines.”

And, as security professionals, Vincent and Jake Voll never imagined they would be faced with protecting people against a deadly virus, invisible to the naked eye, only rearing its ugly head, so to speak, as symptoms present themselves in the body. 

“I’m completely convinced that in every challenge there is an opportunity,” Jake Voll said, emphasizing the hospital project he worked on with Vincent. “The opportunity for us to partner with Alarm.com and our dealer to offer a solution that increased the safety of frontline healthcare workers is winning any way you look at it.” 

Mary Pat Voll concluded by imploring readers to understand that “frontline healthcare workers will continue working tirelessly to comfort and heal those who have fallen ill from this virus—don’t be one of them if you can help it! Be mindful of those around you and practice common sense when it comes to staying healthy.” 

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