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Assisted Living Facilities Can't Afford to Get Key Control Wrong

What happens when your assisted living facility has inaccurate medical records? It’s easy to imagine a nightmare scenario.

Providing incorrect medications to residents can have fatal results, leading to a domino effect of consequences for your business. Nobody wants to face legal liability, reputation damage, or increased vacancies. Even worse, business problems can negatively affect the level of care your staff provides residents, plunging your organization deeper into trouble.

However, while having accurate medical records is critical, there are also other, less obvious areas where it’s important to have correct information and a verifiable audit trail. Failing in those areas can have similar business consequences.

Are hourly employees clocking in and out honestly? Do maintenance staff purchase superfluous equipment and parts without your knowledge? Do you know when employees are using keys, fobs, or access cards to enter resident rooms and why?

That last scenario is something that requires a little more in-depth look. You might actually have a key control policy and process in place, but even minor mistakes can create unexpected consequences.

What can happen when you don’t take adequate steps to secure and track keys and maintain verifiable key activity records? Here are some possibilities:


Increased Costs

Steadily climbing costs are a concern for almost every business. These costs are often accounted for in some manner, but what about escalating unexpected costs? Do you anticipate replacing entire doors on a regular basis? That’s a situation one of our employees actually encountered as a volunteer firefighter.

An assisted living facility had a building code-mandated fire detector in an HVAC closet. For safety reasons, that door remained locked at all hours. The HVAC unit would occasionally get too hot and trigger the alarm. Because emergency responders assign high priority to assisted living facilities, the fire department sent a truck — with sirens blasting and lights flashing — every time the alarm triggered, no matter the time of night. If the manager who typically held the closet key wasn’t available, which was often the case on nights or weekends, the firefighters broke down the door to ensure there was no fire.

Replacing doors every few months is a frustrating expense for any business. This is an extreme example, but you’re probably familiar with replacing keys or locks from time to time because of a lost key. Knowing the location of keys is critical to avoiding unnecessary costs that can quickly increase and impact your business.


Rising Liability Risks

While accurately keeping track of keys helps people open doors when needed, it also prevents people from opening doors they shouldn’t. This is especially true when it comes to keeping tabs on when and why your staff is accessing resident rooms, and preventing potential theft. Consider these headlines:

Again, the above examples are extreme scenarios. Just because your facility hasn’t dealt with a theft of that scale doesn’t mean you haven’t faced a number of small claims that were settled by lawyers or insurance companies out of court. Costs from those various claims can add up over time and have a negative effect on your business.

Of course, even if you have perfect employees who never do such things, accusations still rear their ugly head from time to time. That’s why it’s important to have a verifiable audit trail of every time an employee accesses resident rooms. That information can protect you and your employees from frivolous lawsuits and accusations that you can answer with transparency and honesty.

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Losing Accountability

Not knowing that theft or abuse is happening under your roof isn’t the same as theft or abuse not happening at all. Flawed records keep you from being able to hold employees accountable for their actions and prevent small problems from turning into big ones. If employees aren’t expected to maintain manual access logs accurately, then many simply won’t. Regardless of whether the employee has ill intent or not, people tend to look for the easiest and most convenient path to completing a specific task.


If employees aren't expected to maintain manual access logs accurately, then many simply won't.

However, when an employee does intend to use their access for criminal actions — like when they want to steal from your residents or organization — they’ll ignore a paper log that relies on the honor system. Losing control of your keys means losing control of your employees and your facility.


How to Ensure Accurate Access Records

To hold employees accountable and reduce liability risk, implement key control measures that ensure keys are available when they’re needed and secure when they’re not. Many key control methods fall short, but an electronic key control system can achieve the required level of security while also automatically tracking every time a key is accessed and by whom. You’ll have a verifiable audit trail that will help you respond to complaints regarding missing or misused keys.

Just as a medical mistake can lead to negative consequences for your residents and your business, so too can mishandled keys and inaccurate access records. By taking steps to track keys and hold employees accountable, you can promote a safe and secure place for your residents to live their twilight years in peace. 


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