Time For An Upgrade

Time For An Upgrade

Cambridge Health Alliance upgrades outdated access and video with AMAG solutions

WITH OVER 140,000 PATIENTS IN CAMBRIDGE, SOMERVILLE, AND BOSTON’S METRO NORTH REGION, CAMBRIDGE HEALTH ALLIANCE (CHA) PROVIDES PRIMARY CARE, SPECIALTY CARE, EMERGENCY SERVICES, HOSPITAL CARE, MATERNITY CARE AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH TO LOCAL RESIDENTS. AS A HARVARD AND TUFTS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE TEACHING HOSPITAL, CHA ALSO TRAINS THE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS OF TOMORROW.

But when it came to security, CHA was hampered by the technology of yesterday—its access control system from Casi Rusco company was discontinued and had reached end of life; its video surveillance technology was also outdated.

William Chase, Chief of Public Safety & Security, and Matthew Termini, Deputy Chief of Public Safety & Security, worked together to champion the cause of getting new technology. “I was new to CHA when we first took on the project,” Chase says. “I realized it was a real priority. To me, it’s a force multiplier. We can’t have security officers everywhere. There are key areas where we have to have deploy technology.”

With three hospitals, 15 clinics and 45 buildings, CHA was running about 500 software licenses for access control, and had run out of expansion possibilities, Chase recalls. “At one point we maxed out on the available licenses without upgrading. If we wanted a new card reader, we had to take an existing one offline to do that.”

Obviously, that wasn’t sustainable for a rapidly growing hospital system. In addition, the 300 cameras in use were all older analog technology.

Chase sought the guidance of security consulting firm KSG Associates LLC to design a workable replacement and put together a request for proposal. Vincent J. Longobardi, CSPM, was the consultant on the project. For the access control upgrade, he recommended AMAG Technology’s Symmetry SR, a range of Symmetry controllers developed specifically as a retrofit solution to Casi Rusco Picture Perfect installations.

“Proper design is important, but having the proper technology partner (in this case, AMAG) and the proper integrator is even more important,” Longobardi says.

Following the RFP, CHA selected Spectrum Integrated Technologies as their integration partner.

“CHA was one of many that had a Casi Rusco system that was end of life,” says Steven A. Feldman, director of Spectrum Integrated Technologies. “They clearly needed to upgrade and the Symmetry SR solution uses the infrastructure, housings, backplane and just replaces the control panels. That allowed them to save a lot of money.”

Chase says data conversion of his existing badge population was an extremely important issue to CHA. “We needed to make sure we could export all of our data fields over. Plug and play controllers also drove the decision.”

MOVING FORWARD

While leveraging the existing infrastructure was important, Chase didn’t just want to have a newer version of similar technology. He and CHA were also looking to build off what they had and take advantage of technology advancements and more integration in the future. “We have 4,000 employees. It needed to be both cost effective and scalable, single platform. We wanted user-friendly and integration with a video management system.

“We are in the process of designing an emergency communication center and it is important to monitor both the access control and video from a central point. Our hospital uses code buttons that ride on the access control system. When someone pushes a button to call for help, we use the access control system to monitor those.”

Chase felt the consultant’s recommendation of the AMAG Symmetry SR met all those requirements nicely. “AMAG is a global company, and fully integrated with video management.”

For the camera upgrade, Spectrum installed AMAG’s Complete- View VMS system. “We converted over 120 cameras in the initial phase,” says Spectrum’s manager, security operations, Terry Kilduff. That represents about one-third of the cameras that will eventually be upgraded, he adds. A total of 592 card readers were upgraded.

Kilduff says the installation process went extremely smoothly, particularly working with the IT department to supply addresses and getting the systems online.

“It was a great partnership,” Chase agrees. “We had a project call once a week with the consultant, Spectrum and the IT team and any other stakeholders to look at issues or problems from the past week and to look ahead to what was next.”

To ease into the transition, Spectrum started with some smaller clinics, Feldman explains. “The first step was to match up with the Casi database. Geographically they are in different towns, so we decided to start with a smaller site and test it. Once we were confident, we moved to the bigger sites, saving the three hospitals until the end.”

The objective was to have as few disruptions for employees as possible, a goal that was more than met, Chase says. “Most employees don’t realize they have upgraded to a more robust state of the art system,” he says. “It happened behind the scenes. It wasn’t necessary for us to change out the card readers, so there was no forward facing changes that they saw.

“The project met all of our goals and objectives that we set out and we were able to minimize our downtime and interruption of workflow.”

SEEING RESULTS

When it comes to how the new system is working, the results speak for themselves, Chase says. “We are no longer under this restriction to expand. It has allowed us to deploy access control in areas where we couldn’t have otherwise. The reporting is much more robust. Software is user-friendly and we have not run into any training issues that we anticipated in transitioning to a new software.”

The Symmetry system is now monitored in the telecommunications center, based in the Everett Hospital, Chase says.

“They love it so far,” Feldman reports. “With the existing system they had many issues that couldn’t be resolved. They have cut down on the number of service calls and have no more issues with card reader boards locking up or shutting down.”

Even more important is what the new Symmetry SR solution will allow the hospital to do going forward, Chase adds. “We live in a changing world with elevated threat levels. We will have the ability to lock down areas in emergency situations. We have threat level manager that is a work in progress. We are in the process of tweaking and optimizing the software and wrapping up the integration.”

Now that phase one is complete, CHA and Spectrum can look forward to what’s next.

“They are still using the Casi cards, so we would like to look at a new solution/card that will take them into the future, such as smart card technology,” Kilduff says. More cameras are also on tap for upgrades, he adds.

“Phase two will include the expansion of card readers and IP cameras, and reevaluating doors,” Chase says. “CHA is growing. There are a number of construction projects going on and we want security to be involved in the planning process early on so it is not an afterthought.”

Another area he is looking at is visitor management. “We have an open campus and a tremendous number of patients and family members. We recognize that we need to provide secure facilities, so Symmetry GUEST (AMAG Security’s visitor management solution) will be a consideration down the road.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of CSLS.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - June 2018

    June 2018

    Featuring:

    • Securing Change
    • Preparing For The Worst
    • The Most Effective Detection Technology
    • Creating A Campus-Wide Digital Surveillance Solution

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