Concerns about infant abductions, mother/baby mix-ups, and wandering patients
have been a common fear among hospital administrators for some time. These concerns
fostered an interest in electronic tracking of infants and pediatric patients, and patients whose
medical condition makes them prone to wander. Similar technology is used to keep track of
high-value assets. Litigation continues to be brought against hospitals and birthing centers when a
Sentinal Event occurs. Invariably the charge is inadequate security protection. As a result, the hospital
infant abduction phenomenon sparked an array of manufacturers and vendors to develop a variety of systems designed
to foil abduction attempts, match mothers to their babies, locate wandering patients as well as track high-value assets.
With the continuing increase in litigation and stern guidance from the Joint Commission,
it has become increasingly essential for hospitals to offer state-of-the-art security protection for their patients, mother/baby
units, and visitors. The proliferation of new security products makes it more difficult for administration, nursing, and security management to select a
system that provides “ultimate protection” and ease of use at a reasonable cost.
For the past 15 plus years, SAI has been involved with many companies in the creation, development and evaluation of what have become
"state-of-the-art" systems. Yet, there are some infant protection systems on the market today that fall far short of their claims.
There are approximately 12 to 15 companies presently selling some type of infant security or wander prevention system to
the healthcare industry. They range from Fortune 500 companies to “Mom and Pop” type operations. Several systems currently on the market are passive in
design and can easily be defeated by simply shielding the tag. Some of these passive systems simply converted technology used in the retail trade industry to deter
“shoplifters” and are now using the same technology to protect newborns in the hospital setting. On a good day this type of technology is only 70% effective
for protecting merchandise. How many times have you heard of someone you know taking clothes home from a department store with the security tag still
attached to the garment? It happens all the time. What if the garment were a newborn baby?
Another inherent problem with electronic systems is the propensity they have for false alarms. Although the marketing material will
tell you a system is immune from false alarms, many of our client hospitals continue to complain of consistently having to deal with false alarms.
Systems that incorporate “skin sensor” technology also present their own unique problems. A baby’s constant movement as well as loosening of
the band can cause the connection between the band and skin to separate creating a tag off body alarm while the tag is on the infant.
Some manufacturers’ systems require the nursing unit to replace infant security tag batteries. This places an extra burden on an already over
worked nursing staff.
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Additional issues of concern:
In order to save money, some vendors encourage the hospital
to install the system themselves. This is a bad idea, because the
manufacture can always come back and say the product was not installed to
the manufacturer’ specifications. This can also cause liability to
transfer from the manufacturer to the hospital.
- Quotations may not include total costs for installation, integration with existing IT system,
testing or training.
- Additionally, the quotation may not include a battery back-up UPS
System without which vital information can be lost. Failure of the
system alarm can also occur during a power outage.
- Electronic noise interference can cause passive systems
to lose battery power in the infant tag by constantly activating the
transponder/transmitter system. A transponder should only become active
when it enters an energy field created by an “Exciter Antenna”. The
system should be able to filter out extraneous noise.
- Some systems battery power to their tag will
prematurely deactivate the tag if the band is removed from the infant for
an extended period of time.
Here is an excerpt of a letter from a Security Administrator at
a major healthcare facility in Georgia.
We met at the recent Georgia Hospital Association seminar in Clayton
College where you spoke on infant security. I suggested to our
Infant Security Task Force that we ask if you would consider scheduling a day
to visit our facility and provide a review of our preparedness and ability.
Everyone agreed that this would be extremely helpful, especially when
considering some of our unique problems. The primary and most obvious problem
to us is the excessive number of false alarms we are experiencing from our
infant security system. The alarm rate has been so excessive that the system
is virtually ignored by everyone but our security staff who are (sic)
responsible for documenting each alarm and the cause. A significant percentage
of the alarms are due to system failure or trouble. Are you familiar with
-------Infant protection system? The company was bought out by --------. I
do not know when the company changed names, but the engineer who did the original
installation still services our account. Any opinions or experience you have
had with this product will be treated with the strictest confidence. We just
need an unbiased opinion to help make a determination of continuing to work
toward repairs and solutions or choose another system. I can share a
considerable amount of data on our current system and will do so if we can
arrange for a consultative visit. Thanks in advance for your help….
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I was very familiar with this company when it was in
business. The company’s primary business was to the retail industry for the
protection of products in the department store setting. There was a “Hold
Harmless” clause in small print on the back of their sales invoice which read:
EXCEPT AS EXPRESSED IN THE DESCRIPTION OF THE
MERCHANDISE HEREIN, BUYER ACKNOWLEDGES AND AGREES THAT NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND,
EXPRESS OR IMPLIED OR STATUTORY HAS BEEN MADE BY SELLER, IN FACT OR IN LAW, INCLUDING
THE WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY OR THAT THE MERCHANDISE WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF
THE CONTRACT IS SUITABLE FOR ANY PARITCULAR USE OR PURPOSE. BUYER ASSUMES ALL
RISKS AND LIABILITY WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM THE USE OF SUCH MATERIAL WHETHER
USED SINGLY OR IN COMBINATION WITH OUTHER EQUIPMENT SELLER SHALL NOT BE LIABLE.
This particular company was bought out by a Fortune 500
Company - one of the largest retail security companies in the world – and had
been marketing infant protections systems across the U.S. and over
seas for years. SAI was retained by a Major University Medical Center after one
of their babies was abducted wearing the tag from one of their systems.
Many of SAI's clients have
had, and continue to have, problems with this passive system. The Fortune 500
Company that promoted their systems worldwide went out of the infant electronic
protection business several years ago. In addition to having a high propensity
for false alarms the passive tag was affected by antenna orientation. While many
hospitals are still using this unreliable infant protection system, many others
have replaced it with another, more reliable system.
What are some of the features and specification to look
for in a hospital infant protection system capable of providing a high level of
♦ The receiving antenna should not be affected
by antenna orientation.
♦ The system should have the capability to
identify an infant by name, room and tag I.D. number, log events,
archive activities, and create reports.
♦ The system should have the capability of
self supervision and the ability to visually identify any problems with the system through
♦ The infant band should be flexible and made
of a soft material to provide maximum comfort for the infant.
♦ The transmitter frequency should be high
enough to prevent it from being affected by electronic noise generated throughout the
hospital by other patient care equipment.
♦ Should have battery backup in the event of a
♦ Should be a company that offers a PM
program with the product.
♦ Company should have a track history of
strong customer support. (References Required)
♦ 1 Year Active Transmitter (transponders and
passive tags are unacceptable)
♦ Transmitter must be watertight if submerged
♦ Transmitter must have expiration date
♦ Transmitter pulse rate must be at least 10
times per second
♦ System must interface with electromagnetic
locks, elevators and paging systems, various nurses’ stations, CCTV, RS-232 Port, and
other devices that may be activated by dry contact.
♦ Cut band technology.
♦ A computer interface with programmable
♦ Anti-tailgate feature with auto re-arm
capability when door closes.
♦ System should have self-supervision
♦ Identify infants by name, room number, and
tag identification number.
♦ Delayed egress capability
♦ Should provide continuous door status
♦ Perimeter alarm and elevator lockout
♦ Should have the ability to support
♦ System should contain a 12 hour full
♦ Control panel must know the time of day and
be programmable to lock and unlock doors at programmable times.
♦ Manufacture should carry products liability
insurance protection in the millions of dollars.