Digital Locks In Medical Practices: 4 Key Security Risks – And What To Do About Them

Sep 9, 2014 by

Many medical practices now use digital locks. Conventional locks can lead to problems with lost or stolen keys, particularly in high-volume access points and in clinics with a lot of employees. Digital locks from a commercial locksmith are a convenient way to secure your practice, but this form of security still creates risks. If your clinic or practice uses digital locks, consider the four following security risks, and learn more about the steps you can take to deal with the problem.

Unauthorized disclosure of security codes

Even if you restrict access to your security codes, it’s still relatively easy for somebody to find out the PIN to a digital lock. This is a particular problem where you use digital locks to secure access from public areas or waiting rooms. When a nurse or secretary enters a number into the keypad, a member of the public could easily stand behind your staff member and see the code or PIN. You can tell your staff members to take care, but if they’re in a hurry, they won’t always remember to look over their shoulder.

One way around the problem is to install a screen that obscures the keypad for anybody except the person entering the number. If this isn’t practical, you could alternatively install a small mirror above the lock, so that staff members can at least check if somebody is behind them before they enter the code. In either case, you should also display a sign above the lock reminding staff members to take care.

Over-reliance on digital locks

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), medical practices must take steps to protect all confidential electronic patient records. These regulations cover physical access to facilities, as well as workstation and data security. If a patient makes a complaint, your medical practice will need to provide complete records of user access to sensitive data.

A digital lock will not give you the user access information that you need. As such, it’s important to make sure that you use digital locks in the right places, and in the right way. For example, a digital lock can prevent unauthorized access to a room, but you still need to have all the other relevant security measures in place to protect patient data. Make sure all your staff members understand that digital locks are only part of your security controls through relevant training and communication.

Poor security controls

Digital locks may take away the problem of lost or stolen keys, but poor security controls can still cause problems. For example, in medical practices with high employee turnover, it’s important to regularly change your security codes. It’s easy to reprogram a digital lock, but you still need to make sure that somebody is responsible for updating the code as soon as an employee leaves.

Medical practices must set up a written security policy that all staff members must follow. This policy should explain why it’s so important to keep PIN codes secure. You should also avoid using security codes that are too long to remember. Some digital locks allow 10-digit codes, but you shouldn’t need to use more than five characters. Long codes encourage bad security habits (like writing the numbers on a piece of paper) because your people struggle to remember the digits.

Poor maintenance

In high-traffic access points, your team members could enter a digital security code dozens of times a day. Over time, grease and dirt from their fingers will mark the keypad, which makes it quite easy to work out the four or five numbers you need to use to correctly enter the security code. As such, it’s important to make sure that your cleaners regularly clean the keypad as part of their daily routine.

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions, too. Over time, the keypad may become misaligned with the other parts of the unit, which could stop the lock closing or opening effectively. This occurs commonly where people try to press the keys too quickly, or press two keys at the same time by mistake. 

Digital locks are now a common sight in modern medical practices, but it’s important to make sure that all your employees follow the right security rules. Practice managers must stay alert to the security risks of digital locks and implement all necessary measures to prevent unauthorized access to secure areas of the building.

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