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Best Access Control System for Hospitals (& 4 Key Considerations)

Elliot Blackler November 28, 2022 15 min read

When most people think of hospitals' security and technology systems, they think of outdated systems and archaic filing and administration methods. Contrary to this point of view, a lot of hospitals are on the forefront of technology and have great security methods deployed within their walls.

There are a lot of different ways that access control can be deployed and some are much more in line with the types of technology that would be beneficial to a hospital, as opposed to access control for apartments or a school, for example. 

In this guide, we will be covering access controls for hospitals, how they work, the features that make up these systems, their advantages, ways to find the best system for your hospital and much more.

By the end of this guide you will have a much broader understanding of hospital access control systems and some of the options available.

To summarise we will be covering:

  • Access Control for Hospitals Features
  • Hospitals Access Control Basics
  • Types of Hospital Access Control
  • Benefits of Hospitals Access Control
  • How to Find the Best Hospitals Access Control System
  • Hospitals Access Control Cost
  • Deciding on the Best Hospitals Access Control System

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Key Components of Access Control for Hospitals 


As we have alluded to, there are a lot of types of access control systems that can be deployed and would hypothetically work well in a hospital environment, each with their own features, benefits and usages.

With the above being said, we will be discussing hospital access control as a whole in this guide for the most part, if you are interested in exploring the different types in more detail we have a lot more security guides, blogs and information available. 

Organisation and Patient Management

As we have alluded to above, with a hospital access control system, there is a lot more organisation and the ability to more easily manage staff, visitors and patients. 

It is easy to add, remove or edit permissions for different people, so they can enter or exit an area with ease, you can even see who has accessed an area or monitor any unusual behaviour. 

A Safer Hospital 

When an access control solution is deployed within a hospital, there is an overall safer feeling and much more control throughout the building. Access control systems give visibility, security, and are easily managed.

Whether it is keeping track of who has access to one area or another, ensuring valuables are locked up or allowing staff to get through doors without using their hands, there’s a lot of ways access control for hospitals can be utilised to make a safer environment.

Fire & Emergency Safety 

It is one thing to say that your hospital is safe on an everyday basis, but it is another thing entirely to say that it is protected when it comes to an emergency or fire.

An access control system can help evacuation by unlocking all fire escape doors and ways to the exits while simultaneously being able to tell you if any staff are still within the building (in certain systems).

Managing the Hospitals 

If we are talking in broader terms, the hospital as a whole can be managed much more effectively. Whether we are talking about human access control or even vehicle access control.

Being able to determine not only which people can access certain areas, you can also control which vehicles have top priority access to the hospital.

In terms of hospital vehicle access control, ambulances being dispatched or dropping off at the accident and emergency entrance can have special clearance via the access control system.


How Does Access Control for Hospitals Work?

When it comes to the healthcare sector, there is a huge need for access control, this is due to the large volume of visitors, patients, staff and others coming in and out of the building/s. 

Access control provides a physical security solution that can help monitor, control and even restrict vehicles, people and assets entering or exiting the area.

As we have mentioned above, outside of keeping better track and control of people, a hospital access control system acts as a security system to ensure that high value machinery, goods and tools are not at risk of being stolen. 

On top of this, access control for hospitals can keep confidential and private patient information safe and secure behind limited access digital doors.

Let's look at how an access control system in a hospital would look in a practical setting.

Access Control for Hospitals - Three Key Parts

Access control systems can be defined by three core parts:


Physical Barriers

This is how access is controlled or restricted to a location, building or hospital as a whole, this can be done with doors, barriers, gates, or a combination of these. Barriers can be used to restrict people or vehicles.

Physical barriers are the main way that an access control system grants or denies access to a location, and effectively does the job of a security guard, determining who is allowed into a building or area.


Method of Identification or Authentication 

There are a lot of different technologies that come under the access control umbrella, of which we will be looking at in the next section, and these are just a way of identifying the users. 

This could be with a password, PIN pad, biometric access (fingerprints, etc..), a proximity device or a key fob or smart card. We will explore a few of these in further detail shortly.


The Access Control Technology

The third and final core part of a hospital’s access control system is the actual technology itself, as we have alluded to, there are different ones that could be implemented in a healthcare setting. 

To oversimplify, the access control technology is the software and the reader that determines whether a person or vehicle has access to an area, a building or a ward. 


Types of Hospital Access Control 

Needless to say, there are a lot of different technologies that come under the banner of access control, with some leaning more towards one type of business or another. 

When it comes to hospital access control, the contactless options tend to be the most popular as they limit touch points within the hospital.

With this being said, we are going to look at some of the more commonly used access control systems for hospitals. This is by no means a definitive list, but will help shed some light on the solutions available.

Key Fob Access Control 

You may have come across this form of access control before, but not realised that it was called key fob access control. Effectively this is where a small, often circular, fob is used to tap against a reader to verify a user’s identity. 

A fob can be used in both people and vehicle access control situations, either to open a door, a gate or a barrier, or any other form of physical access control. 

Key fob access control systems are fairly simple to manage, effortless to use and provide a contactless solution for hospital staff and even visitors. 

The read range is very small on a key fob, but it still can be scanned within a few centimetres, so it is similar to NFC (near field communications) which is the technology phones use to do Apple Pay or other phone payment options.

ID Badge Access Control

ID badges could arguably be the best access control solution for a hospital or healthcare environment, due to the ability to pair contactless entry with traditional identification methods. 

This means that what staff use as their work ID for the hospital could also allow for access through certain doors and into different areas.

The ability to do two separate important functions within the hospital means that it is often the chosen solution for a lot of healthcare settings. 

Aside from access and identification, there are a lot of different benefits from enhanced security to safer emergency protocols to people management. 

ID badge access control can use a few different technologies, but the concept is the same, having a tangible ID that acts as a user credential (digital key) and proof of identification for the workers. 

One example of ID badge access control technology could be proximity cards, which as the name suggests are read within X distance of the scanner.

Biometric Access Control 

On the surface, this seems like it would not be that popular within a medical setting, but contrary to popular belief there are a lot of uses for biometrics in healthcare and hospitals.

To briefly summarise biometric access control, a user’s unique characteristics will be input into the access control system and be the primary way of authorising entry and identifying them. This is often done with fingerprint scans, but can also be retinal scans too.

Despite this sounding fairly futuristic, it is already used in a variety of settings, in fact, biometrics are used to open a lot of our smartphones, from fingerprint readers to FaceID technology on iPhones.

In terms of biometric access control in a hospital, it can be used to determine patient information, keep data confidential, limit access to certain areas and keep the hospital safe.

The biometric scanners will be installed on certain doors that have a higher need of being secure, these could also be installed on staff entrances to the hospital. This would mean that not every door within the hospital would need to be biometrically secure.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

A growing area within access control for hospitals is vehicle access control, this can be deployed in a few different ways to help manage vehicle flow within a hospital’s car park and surrounding area.

Within vehicle access control is the popular method called Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR for short. As the name suggests, pre-authorised cars are automatically granted entry upon the technology scanning their licence plate.

This can be utilised to grant staff vehicles into a dictated staff parking area, hospital vehicles coming into the hospital at speed a quick and easy entrance, and keep the area secure 24/7.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition is becoming more and more popular in the hospital setting and with the different applications it is not hard to see why. 

The Future of Access Control for Hospitals 

As we see technology used in more and more businesses and areas than ever before, we will see hospitals, who have long been known to be behind the curve, adapt, evolve and adjust their offering to provide a much more technologically involved service.

Access control is just one of the many ways that hospitals can create a plethora of benefits as broad as saving staff time, limited unauthorised access, getting patients to beds/operations/surgery quicker and quicker ambulance times.

We continue to push for new and innovative ways to improve and adapt the healthcare industry, and hospital access control has already started making big waves within healthcare and other similar settings it has been rolled out in.


Benefits of Access Control System for Hospitals 

Obviously, when it comes to Hospital access control benefits there are a lot that may be a higher priority for one complex and ones that would be more important to another. 

In addition, every type of access control system has its own usage and nuances, so we will be covering mostly broad benefits of access control for hospitals.

Security Benefits of Hospitals Access Control

Visitor Management

When you constantly have a huge fluctuation of visitors and patients coming in and out of the hospital it can be tricky to manage these people. 

Having some form of access control system can help implement a much better visitor management system.

To put the above into context, some systems can give temporary visitor passes that allow them access to the core areas they would need to go.


Keep Your Hospital Safe 24/7

Healthcare facilities, hospitals and residential care homes require a lot more monitoring to ensure everyone inside the buildings are safe around the clock.

When an access control system is deployed within a hospital there is much more security for not only the people, but the assets, vehicles and everything between.


Decrease Hospital Liability 

With areas of sensitive information or data kept under digital lock and key, there is much less likelihood of data breach or leaking of sensitive documents.

In recent years, hospitals have been a target of cyber crime and data breaches due to their unsecured data and archaic security methods. An access control system would keep these documents more secure and less prone to attack.

User Benefits of Hospitals Access Control

No Metal Keys

For your staff, it is a huge difference to have a hospital access control system deployed. Although we are seeing keys, in the traditional sense, used less and less, the core concept is still being utilised.

Although in an access control system these ‘keys’ are called credentials, they effectively do the same thing but to a better extent, they provide authenticity, authentication and much more security while actually being easier to use than a metal key.


Contactless Entry

It is fairly likely that in a hospital setting that people will have their hands full and are unable to access a key or a key card, they could have sterile equipment, a wheelchair, a stretcher, or just have their hands full with charts, clipboards or anything else.

This is where hands-free access control solutions come in, the staff members can be issued an ID badge that has long-range (ultra-high frequency) technology in it, that would allow for a long-range badge reader to pick up the ID when the worker gets within a couple of metres.


Reducing Touch Points

Hospital staff are always very careful to wash their hands more frequently than others and avoid touching unnecessary things as a rule of thumb. 

So this is where a major benefit of access control comes in, you can have contactless touch points that allow for seamless entry and exit without having to physically touch anything.

General Benefits of Hospitals Access Control

Emergency Software 

As we briefly discussed earlier, an access control system can create a much safer environment in the event of an emergency, and although this is an infrequent occurrence it is so important to not overlook.

A hospital access control system would be able to unlock doors and create a safe path to exit the building with ease, as opposed to jangling with keys at every door, all the linked doors would be unlocked.


Vehicle Access Control 

There are a lot of ways that the vehicle access control side of these technologies can be implemented and how they can be used. 

A good example would be fitting the gates or barriers with some form of vehicle recognition or ANPR (automatic number plate recognition), this could allow ambulances to quickly gain access to the hospital and restrict other vehicles from entering that way.


Lower Chance of Substance Abuse

Having pharmaceuticals, drugs and medical supplies secured via an access control system, you can limit who has the ability to get into and out of certain areas. 

A hospital access control system will allow for accountability when it comes to missing assets and the higher security will allow for less theft or abuse.


What Do You Look For in the Best Access Control for Hospitals?

Works Well With Hospitals - each healthcare setting may have a series of different technological and security procedures and technologies in place prior to the addition of access control. So finding an access control system for your hospital that pairs well with existing systems from hospital wide CCTV to gate access to everything in between.


Helps Staff Do Their Jobs - healthcare staff have hard enough jobs without having to throw additional barriers at them. This is why you need to find a hospital access control system that will make their lives easier, whether that’s contactless door entry or quicker access in and out of the car park.


Cost Effective - people will incorrectly think that this means you go for the cheap option, and that is not what the term cost effective means. In this instance, it is finding the access control that provides the most value to the hospital, be that certain features or lower costs to issue credentials to a large amount of staff. 


Simple to Run - technology’s aim as a whole is about how to simplify the lives of its users, it is about finding new and better ways to do something. So, in the context of hospitals an access control system is a way of having smoother operations, higher security and easy management, not a help not a hindrance.


Cost of Access Control Systems for Hospitals 

It would be naive to say that there is a blanket price that covers all hospitals and healthcare settings when it comes to access control. There are so many factors that could affect the overall price of the hospital access control installation. 

To put this into context, below are some examples of factors that would change the final price or at least have some weighting on the budget and decisions. 


  • Level of Complexity (How Difficult it Would be)

  • Local Installer Rates

  • Hospital Location (City Centre Vs Rural)

  • Amount of Entrances or Exits and Internal Doors (Total Number of Instals Required)

  • Potential of Theft (Internal or External)

  • Access Control System/s That Need to be Installed

  • Current Security Systems Deployed Within Hospital

  • Brand or Model of Access Control Technology Being Deployed

  • Hospital Budget

  • Whether it is a Private or Public Hospital

Speculative Hospital Access Control Example

As we have mentioned multiple times within this guide, there are so many factors to consider when looking at access control for hospitals, and the fact that no two hospitals are the same makes it even more complex.

Think of the differences, even if, and this is a big if, two hospitals are designed exactly the same, they would have different patients, staff, visitors and challenges unique to each location. 

This makes determining a ‘fixed price’ for hospital access control impossible, however, we can give a very rough outline of the kind of prices you may encounter.


Per External Hospital Door Access Control Cost: £750 - £1250 per door


Per Internal Hospital Doors: £300 - £600 per door


Issuing Credentials to Staff: £2 - £4 per person


Visitor Passes (Optional): £1 - £3 per visitor

Maintenance (Yearly): £2000 - £4000 


Repair Costs: £200 - £300 per visit


It is important to note that every business, hospital, healthcare location and case will have different factors to weigh in, but this gives some context to the prices of hospital access control.


Choose the Right Access Control System for Hospitals 

Hospitals and health care settings can be challenging to run at the best of times, and finding solutions that can make different elements of the operation run smoother should be important to any location. 

When it comes to security, this is also a factor that should not be overlooked when looking for technological solutions to varying problems. With an access control system you can save time, increase security and have better control of who comes in and out of the hospital.

There is no right or wrong solution when it comes to hospital access control, but there are definitely systems that work better for one location over another. 

If you are interested in exploring your options for access control for hospitals or just curious about the industry and its applications as a whole, reach out to our UK based team to learn more about how access control could help your business.

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It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

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Elliot Blackler

Elliot is the in-house content specialist at Nortech and runs all aspects of the resource hub. He's passionate about UK manufacturing and how modern content marketing can help bring light to complex industries.

Elliot works extensively with the Nortech team to shine a light on the access control industry for both installers and end users. Always keen to improve, feel free to email him on new content suggestions or feedback!

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