Be strict about demanding identification from visitors
Never assume people are who they claim to be, says Fred Roll, president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) in Glendale Heights, IL. “There is no reason you shouldn’t be questioning everyone for valid identification,” Roll says. “If they say there are from the FBI or Homeland Security, you should demand identification. If they get hinky about it and make a big deal about being offended or surprised, that should be your No. 1 clue that something is wrong here.”
James M. Roberts, CHPA, CAS, director of safety and security for Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says staff should watch for actions by people that are unusual. “You don’t have to profile people,” he says, “just what they do.” If a staffer notices someone who seems out of place and inquires, for instance, the visitor might ask for directions to another department. Then if the person heads off in a wrong direction after being told which way to go, that should send up a red flag. Call security immediately.
The recent imposter incidents should be cause for hospitals to increase their level of alertness, Roberts says. At his facility, staff have been instructed to call security right away if anyone shows up claiming to be a Joint Commission surveyor, whether their identification seems legitimate or not. “We would detain that person until we could verify whether they are who they say they are,” Roberts says. “The goal is get one of these people and hold them until we can have them interviewed not only by our security but also by the police. Then we might really find out what they’re up to.”
Roberts also stresses that risk managers should ensure any questionable visitors are reported to federal authorities, such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Those agencies may never determine the extent of the imposter visits if hospitals don’t report all incidents, he warns.