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Addressing Workplace Violence and
Creating Safer Hospitals

Addressing Workplace Violence and Creating Safer Hospitals

Violence in hospitals is an epidemic in the United States. There are attacks or attempted violence against doctors, nurses, and health professionals nationwide. These incidents are often outbursts from patients or their families, rather than random occurrences. While healthcare professionals may see this as part of their job, the increasing frequency of violent outbursts demands action. This alarming trend poses a serious threat to the well-being of these dedicated professionals and jeopardizes the quality of patient care. However, advancements in AI technology, specifically AI-powered video analytics, offer a promising solution to this growing problem.

Reasons behind the rise in violence against healthcare workers

Healthcare professionals are unfortunately the most common targets of workplace violence, with 73% of victims coming from this sector, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The reasons behind this are numerous. Healthcare settings, particularly emergency departments and psychiatric units, often encounter high-stress situations that can trigger aggressive behavior from patients or their families. The combination of long wait times, overcrowded conditions, and limited resources can also lead to heightened tensions and, in some cases, violent outbursts. Another threat is drug-seeking individuals who resort to aggression when denied access to prescription medications. As a result, healthcare workers are caught in the crossfire, facing verbal abuse, physical assaults, and even threats to their lives.

Of all medical workers, nurses withstand the worst workplace challenges. Nearly 41% of registered nurses report having experienced incivility, bullying, or other forms of workplace violence. Each assault may result in potential deaths or long-term injuries, legal liability, missed time at work and resignations. Despite facing safety concerns daily, 63% of nurses feel their organizations fall short in addressing these issues. These statistics underscore the critical need for robust security measures to safeguard healthcare professionals and uphold their well-being in the workplace.

Detecting violence within hospitals

The first step to address the problem is to identify potential threats timely. Relying solely on video cameras and human observation for threat detection leaves room for error, increasing the risk of overlooking dangers. However, integrating AI video analytics into existing surveillance systems offers a solution to this challenge. By harnessing AI capabilities, hospitals and medical facilities can continuously monitor their premises in real-time, swiftly identifying specific actions or movements suggestive of a threat. For instance, the Scylla Anomaly Detection and Behavior Recognition system can spot aggressive behaviors like raised fists or pushing and promptly alert security staff. This early detection empowers security teams to respond promptly, effectively preventing violent incidents from escalating.

Identification of repeat offenders

Another application of AI-powered video analytics is the identification of individuals with a history of violent behavior or known criminal records. By utilizing facial recognition technology, hospitals can screen visitors and patients upon entry, alerting security personnel if any matches with existing databases are found. This not only acts as a deterrent to potential aggressors but also enables staff to take appropriate precautions when dealing with high-risk individuals.

Active shooter preparedness

Unfortunately, medical facilities are the third common place for active shooting. Data from the NIH's Active Shooter Response Report reveals that since 2000, there have been 154 hospital-related shootings spanning 148 hospitals. These incidents are far from random, often stemming from personal grievances against ex-partners, healthcare professionals, or colleagues.

A chilling example of this occurred on May 3, 2023, at a Northside Hospital facility in Midtown Atlanta. During an appointment, an individual accompanied by his mother turned violent, brandishing a handgun and leading to the tragic death of one woman and injuries to at least four others.

Various strategies for responding to active shooters have been developed over time. It is essential for all hospitals to have a Workplace Violence Toolkit program in place, which includes a detailed active shooter action plan. Many hospitals are now leveraging advanced technologies to bolster their physical security, such as AI-powered video surveillance, access control systems, intrusion detection, and gun detection systems.

In the critical moments of an active shooting incident, each second counts, as these events often unfold rapidly and are over in minutes. Unfortunately, panic and chaos can lead to delays in response, leaving individuals at greater risk. Therefore, it is crucial that any communication regarding an active shooter is clear, accurate, and provides actionable guidance to prevent further escalation of the crisis. AI-powered video analytics plays a pivotal role in this scenario, offering indispensable support by swiftly analyzing the situation and providing real-time insights to help authorities make informed decisions and take prompt actions to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms, visual weapon detection systems analyze video feeds from security cameras, identify the presence of firearms or other dangerous weapons, including knives, and alert security personnel in real-time. Not only do they detect a gun, but also they can automatically monitor the gunman’s movement across the connected cameras in real-time and provide the information on the evolving situation, necessary for swift and effective response and intervention.

Another important advantage of these systems is that they operate unobtrusively. Unlike traditional security measures such as metal detectors or pat-downs, they do not disrupt the flow of people entering or exiting the hospital. It can seamlessly integrate with existing security systems, providing an additional layer of protection without causing inconvenience or delays for patients and visitors.

Moreover, visual weapon detection technology can assist in identifying potential threats even before they escalate into violent incidents. By continuously monitoring the video feeds, the AI algorithms can detect suspicious behavior patterns and alert security personnel to investigate further. This proactive approach can help prevent acts of violence from occurring in the first place, thereby saving lives and reducing the impact on healthcare providers and patients.

Post-incident analysis and prevention

AI-powered video analytics can provide valuable insights for post-incident analysis and prevention. By analyzing historical data, the system can identify patterns and trends in violent incidents, helping hospitals develop targeted strategies to mitigate future risks. For instance, if certain areas of the facility consistently experience higher rates of violence, additional security measures can be implemented in those specific locations.

Final Takeaway

As hospitals continue to face workplace violence challenges, it is essential to embrace innovative solutions that prioritize their safety and well-being. AI-powered video analytics present a promising solution, empowering hospitals and medical facilities to enhance their physical security and protect their staff. By leveraging the capabilities of AI, healthcare organizations can proactively identify potential threats, respond swiftly to violent incidents, and develop targeted strategies to prevent future occurrences.

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