Resident safety and security are two of the most pressing topics for administrators and nurses in long-term care settings. In fact, all departments should be included when considering how to build a safety strategy, experts note. Here, they advise on how to coordinate and customize plans for optimal effectiveness.

1 – Realize these considerations truly need to keep the end result in mind: safety and security for everyone involved. This is particularly true when it comes to door alarms and alerts.

“The most common mistake is making a product decision instead of a value decision,” says Mike MacLeod, president of Status Solutions. “Communities need to ask themselves if they just want to buy a product or work with a true technology partner that will focus on applying the technology that will provide the desired outcomes.”

2 – Integration is the key to getting rid of “technology silos, taking your facility from reactionary to strategic in regard to resident safety, workflow and more,” MacLeod adds. During the first few minutes of an emergency, ignorance and panic need to be minimized, if not eliminated. That’s why meshing otherwise independent systems, all with different notification means and alerts, is so important, he notes.

“Unification of disparate systems for situational awareness is the key to faster, more efficient emergency alerting and response management,” he says. “For us, it boils down to integration, automation and customization.”

3 – MacLeod joins others in calling for customized safety and security plans. That goes for personal security (such as resident locating, emergency response and mobile equipment monitoring) as well as facility security (such as access control, video surveillance, intrusion alarm monitoring, and fire and life safety), says Jason Fradin, assistant vice president of marketing at Stanley Healthcare.

To create a customized and efficient plan, these two types of security should always be considered “in tandem,” Fradin says.

“When assessing what’s needed for safety and security, it goes well beyond risk mitigation. It’s an opportunity to fix inefficient processes to help ensure safe and effective care,” he explains.

4 – Involve all departments that are associated with an emergency alerting system, advises Jim Kelley, vice president of sales and marketing at Digital Care Systems. This includes administration and nursing, as well as maintenance, resident services, I.T. and others.

“Having staff from each of these departments answer some basic questions will provide a good starting point for the assessment,” Kelley notes. 

Questions that should be asked include: What do we like about the current system? Dislike? What features will make staff more efficient (and happier)? What features will benefit our residents most? What is the most important thing to you about a new system?

“Make a list of the responses and create a list of ‘must have’ features,” Kelley recommends. “Be careful to avoid some high tech features that sound good but would be impractical to implement in your situation.”

5 – It still all comes down to the fact that this is a “people business,” reminds Richard Hauer, product manager at Pose Company.

“Just putting out product and alarms isn’t going to do it. Training components and identifying all the possible things that can occur are very important,” Hauer says. “Assess each resident, and whatever the likelihood is there. It starts with orientation and understanding.”

6 – Ultimately, safety is a byproduct of “what nurses can do and respond to, not a function of any particular piece of hardware,” explains John Brasch, president of John Brasch Co. LLC.

“You have to train people until they’re confident of their competency, or they don’t act on it,” Brasch notes. “The training has to be sufficient on a wandering system or fall system so the people using it are confident of their competence with the technology. In my experience, this doesn’t happen a lot. A small amount of training takes place, but if they’re not confident, what needs to be done doesn’t get done.” 

Mistakes to avoid

Not keeping the “big picture” in mind when considering a certain aspect of safety or security. 

Buying a product and neglecting to invest time and resources to properly train staff in its use.

Not looking to integrate various elements, which should lead to better interoperability.