Axis Communications, a provider of network video technologies, offers a range of intelligent security solutions. While such technology is traditionally used for security purposes, the company also developed a range of thermal cameras that can be coupled with an analytics system to automatically detect incidents in healthcare facilities, such as patient falls.
As the cameras are thermal, they can operate in a range of conditions, including in low light or low visibility settings. However, they do not reveal the same level of detail as a conventional camera, and so do not encroach on patient privacy to the same degree. In addition, as the analytics system can automatically detect incidents, such as falls, this reduces the need for staff to monitor footage continuously. If the system detects a suspected incident, it can alert staff, who can then review the footage and take appropriate action.
Medgadget asked Paul Baratta, business development manager for healthcare at Axis Communications, some questions about the system.
Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Can you tell us about some of the surveillance challenges inherent to healthcare facilities?
Paul Baratta, Axis Communications: Hospitals are open, vulnerable environments that are extensions of the city they reside in. The priority is to seamlessly protect patients, visitors and staff as they come and go, but the number of doors and entrances throughout a facility can make it challenging. The level of security needed to keep patients safe can make it difficult to keep the environment open and caring, and not similar to a prison. Since hospitals are a combination of many businesses including pharmacies, restaurants, retail stores and banks, they echo the neighborhood around them. They are not a secluded, private facility, they are part of a larger community of people living, working and visiting. Because of this, they are a major challenge to the public safety professionals responsible for monitoring activity and providing quick emergency responses. These professionals rely heavily on video surveillance, which is a critical tool in providing a safe setting in a highly complex and busy environment.
Medgadget: How do surveillance systems help healthcare staff to care for patients?
Paul Baratta: While video surveillance hasn’t always been used for direct patient monitoring and care, new innovations, such as thermal technology, have made it possible to use video surveillance without violating patient privacy or HIPPA regulations. It is renowned for ensuring reliable detection with a low rate of false alarms, so it is ideal for a busy setting. Historically, the cost of high-quality thermal imaging has been beyond the reach of organizations with limited budgets and has been traditionally designed for outdoor use and in large housing facilities. Today, cameras like our AXIS P1280 thermal camera can be used to provide healthcare providers with round-the-clock monitoring of patients who need it, without encroaching on their privacy. The ability for closer monitoring of patients can help staff respond to incidents much quicker, which in a hospital can be the difference between life and death.
Medgadget: Clearly, any surveillance system needs to balance patient privacy with care. How do these thermal cameras achieve this?
Paul Baratta: Thermal cameras can be used as a cost-effective detector with visual confirmation, for both the safety of people and properties across many environments. The cameras have built-in analytics, such as AXIS Video Motion Detection, that can send an alert when it detects motion within a predefined area. The cameras also support AXIS Camera Application Platform (ACAP), which is compatible with a broad range of third-party applications, including sound analytics, among other tools. Sound analytics is a particularly useful tool in mental health facilities as it is used to monitor aggressive behavior, like raised voices and breaking glass, which can signify a patient in distress.
Medgadget: So, how does the thermal surveillance system work in practice in healthcare facilities? Are the cameras mounted in patients’ rooms, or in corridors?
Paul Baratta: In healthcare environments, staff can observe patients and residents remotely. In doing so, staff can work more efficiently and patients and residents can rest undisturbed. Cameras used to provide patient watches can assist hospital staff in providing patient safety, without the need to be physically present in every room. Patient watches have a tremendous cost to healthcare organizations and the use of thermal network devices can reduce full time equivalent (FTE) costs while also providing a high level of observation and patient safety.
The P2180 and P1280-E camera design allows the thermal sensor unit to be placed in locations with limited space and it comes with a wide range of mounting accessories for both wall, ceiling or recessed installations. The P1280 and P1280-E dome cameras are capable of a low-profile installation of a thermal network camera that will provide for discrete observation from many angles.
Medgadget: How does the analytics system work? Can it be programmed to alert staff in response to certain stimuli, such as patient falls?
Paul Baratta: Video analytic solutions can vary depending on the application and set up. They can be on the camera edge, the video management system or a third-party server based software. In healthcare, analytics are used to monitor patients as well as things like gunshots, heatmapping and signs of aggression. The goal of analytics in healthcare is to increase patient satisfaction and quality of care. Essentially, analytics are programming a set of parameters to the activity the software is looking for, the alert notification systems you require, and when the software detects something that meets its search criteria it alerts someone of the event. It is to be said that there are no perfect analytics and they all have limitations. Falls can be “detected” for a quicker response, but today’s analytics cannot necessarily “prevent” falls.
Medgadget: Have you installed this system in any healthcare facilities yet? If so, how has it been received?
Paul Baratta: Thermal imaging for patient observation is new for Axis. The P1280 and 1280-E have just been released. We’ve conducted research at customer events and concluded that healthcare professionals need a discrete solution, that would provide a high level of observation. This was not an easy task, but we believe that the P series thermal will fit these needs. We have installed some cameras in pilot situations and the response has been positive.
Overall benefits of thermal imaging provide healthcare professionals the ability to observe a patient and respect the privacy of individuals. For some organizations this is paramount, especially in senior living care homes and hospital patient rooms. Thermal imaging detects incidents and movement without revealing personal details of the people in the image. Together with analytics, these new cameras can trigger alerts or alarms in response to patient or resident falls, allowing for staff to take immediate action.
Here’s a video demonstrating Axis’ thermal cameras: