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Audio analytics: A tool to reduce workplace violence in healthcare facilities




Workplace violence (WV) is an alarming, yet common hazard affecting hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings. It is defined as acts of violence, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty, which can result in serious physical harm, psychological trauma, and stress.

The consequences of WV are profound. For instance, it can increase the workload as well as harm the medical reciprocity between nurses and patients which ultimately leads to staff turnover intention or the healthcare employee’s desire to change jobs.

Traditionally, workplace violence has been addressed with prevention strategies that include management commitment, employee participation, hazard identification, and safety and health training. When physical security technologies are part of the prevention program, metal detectors, and video surveillance cameras are frequently utilized.

Although denying the entrance to armed persons and monitoring waiting areas and hallways are two important tactics that can help reduce the risk of workplace violence, incidents against doctors and nurses still occur. This is especially true on healthcare campuses, where people are often experiencing stressful situations and can become easily aggravated and lose control.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 90 percent of all aggressive incidents are preceded by anger, which is typically expressed through loud expressions. Therefore, integrating a solution that can efficiently detect those first signs of hostility is fundamental to enhancing the functionality of physical security systems already in place and ensuring workplace safety.

Audio analytics

Sound detection and audio analytics can improve security in real-time by utilizing filters that identify potential threats, such as verbal aggression (duress, anger, or fear), gunshots, car alarms, and the breaking of glass. Moreover, they can prevent workplace violence from occurring in areas where cameras cannot be placed due to privacy concerns (e.g., restrooms).

Integrating audio technologies with video analytics can also help security teams augment sensory perception, reduce false alarms, and overall improve surveillance efficiency by:

  • Detecting different threat sounds, even when the camera is pointing in the
    opposite direction.
  • Taking a proactive security stance, as opposed to a reactive one.
  • Providing remote notifications of threats to administrators.
  • Identifying early signs of verbal aggression before the situation escalates to
    physical aggression.
  • Expediting response times.

It is important to note that workplace violence can be reduced with the strategic use of audio analytics, without affecting the privacy of individuals, as only the sound characteristics, not speech content, are analyzed. In addition, the recording of audio is not uninterrupted. On the contrary, it only records a few seconds before and after the detection arises.

Audio analytics is an unparalleled tool to provide an extra layer of security, amplify the capabilities of video surveillance, and help security personnel intervene early and adequately when a workplace violence emergency occurs in a healthcare facility.