Bill Taylor

Hospital and healthcare settings offer many ways to use video surveillance. The security needs of these institutions reflect the life-or-death work they do and also a volatile environment where emotions can run high. Healthcare facilities present application challenges that include variable lighting, a need for indoor and outdoor coverage, and often a campus setting where a critical incident might occur a long distance from a central location. Recent technology advances are well-suited for the hospital and healthcare setting, expanding the video surveillance capabilities needed to protect patients, staff and visitors. Let's look at some of the ways video technology today can solve surveillance challenges in hospitals and health care facilities.

Hybrid solutions. Most hospitals have an existing video surveillance system in place, and if it is at least several years old, it is very likely an analog system. These institutions face the challenge of upgrading their analog systems while keeping costs down and preserving previous investments in technology. Fortunately, it is now possible to expand an analog system using a hybrid strategy to enhance coverage and to have most, if not all of the functionality of an all-IP system. For example, Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona has installed 125 Panasonic cameras and is looking to double that number over the next year using a combination of best-in-breed network and analog video solutions.

Expanded dynamic range/challenges of backlighting. Healthcare facilities such as Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children's Hospital in Ohio face challenges related to large windows and glass doors and the resulting highly variable lighting conditions. In such applications, there is a danger of more brightly lit areas dominating an image and obliterating the details in darker areas. Toledo Hospital uses Panasonic's Super Dynamic III (SDIII) technology to expand the dynamic range 128 times and to image-correct the video to provide superior images regardless of contrast within a single scene or changing light conditions. Image processing also includes Adaptive Black Stretch technology to make dark areas more visible.

Smart HD cameras provide new capabilities. Video Motion Detection inside cameras at the edge of the network can help alert personnel if patients are mobile in areas where they should be resting. Face detection functionality on the latest network cameras can function in hospital wings where visitors need to be buzzed in to enter. The use of a “privacy zone” function can mask private areas. Smart cameras are also offering increasing use of video analytics, which continue to gain traction for conventional video surveillance applications. For example, smarter cameras on the edge of the network can identify objects left behind.

Cameras for any lighting condition. The variable lighting conditions and need for day/night surveillance are no problem for modern video cameras. Low-light camera models are especially useful in dimly lit hospital areas or during “downtime” when lights are dimmed to promote patient rest and relaxation.

Vandal-proof models. Many cameras are designed to withstand the harshest treatment and continue working. Vandal-proof cameras can be helpful in areas such as psych wards or addiction treatment centers, for example, and can withstand attack when positioned outdoors even in the toughest neighborhoods.

All in all, video systems have evolved to provide a wealth of benefits for hospital and health care institutions, including better images, smarter cameras and the opportunity to make video images an integral part of an institution's operations. But even given the extensive benefits of new technology, the approach to updating a video system does not have to be “all or nothing.” Technology also makes it easy to integrate existing analog cameras into IP networked systems. Any user who has a well-functioning analog system can expand and build on the system rather than strip it all out and start from scratch.

Today's digital video systems are also scalable and future-proof. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have learned that it is possible to install a small system today and build it over time as additional funds become available, while maintaining the benefits of an efficient and well-designed system. That's the beauty of a “system solutions” approach on a unified platform.