COVID-19 and Healthcare Security: Challenges and Opportunities for Building Enduring Systems of Safety


Some security measures implemented during COVID-19 will likely persist, either continuously or intermittently, for the foreseeable future. While it is too early to tell which practices will prevail, learning from our response to the COVID-19 pandemic allows us to prepare for the next emergency (Handfield et al., 2020; Haig et al., 2020). At the same time, security professionals face a more violent and unstable world, and they should be supported by appropriate policies. As discussed in this paper, there are many lessons leaders in the public and private sectors can glean to inform decision-making. This pandemic, however, has brought one underlying theme to the forefront of healthcare security. Preparedness is not a static resource that can be tapped at the onset of a crisis. It requires a commitment from key stakeholders to maintain a culture of security consciousness. An all-hazards approach is an essential part of putting this mindset into practice. Organizations that also invest in proactive violence prevention programs and social support systems tend to fare better when dealing with stressful events. Hospitals should develop evidence-based security policies and enforce these rules consistently, even under extreme conditions. New technologies have the potential to support these efforts, but organizations should take the time to determine which tools fit their needs and capacities. Resilient supply chains are becoming increasingly vital as global threats emerge. We cannot know what form the next emergency will take. However, building a strong security framework from the organizational level to the global level would empower us to confront any challenge that comes our way.


Benjamin Topiel is a Master of Public Health student at Temple University with a focus on health policy and management. After graduating from George Washington University with a B.A. degree in Geography, Benjamin completed a graduate certificate program in Sustainability Management and Policy from Pennsylvania State University. His academic and professional research has focused on understanding the connections between environmental challenges and other determinants of health. He currently serves as a Sustainability Consultant in the private sector as a member of T.H.E.M.’s Sustainability Task Force. His most recent professional experience includes a safety and security internship at Virtua Health. In addition, he served in policy and communications positions at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the American Clean Power Association.


I would like to acknowledge the many people who provided their expertise and insights to support this whitepaper. I wish to thank Zachary Chambers, Bill Christie, Martin Green, Muhammad Hafiz Bin Rohani, Marc Sano, and Jim Sawyer for taking the time to participate in interviews and offer other informational resources that guided my research. I greatly appreciate the assistance of Helen-Ann Epstein, Nancy Felesena, and Ricki Rusting, who helped me access scholarly resources that were invaluable to my work on this project. I am grateful to Paul Sarnese for his encouragement, support, and guidance throughout this process. I would also like to thank the IAHSS Foundation Research Committee for their well-rounded critiques that helped me produce the best version of this paper.