Healthcare News & Insights

Slash spending: Implement a print strategy

GettyImages-507476776When you think about ALL the printing your hospital does, it’s easy to see how it’s a major expense. In this guest post, Michael O’Leary, vice president of enterprise accounts at a print management software and solutions company, explains how implementing a print strategy can save your facility a lot of money.

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The primary goal that permeates every function of a healthcare organization is to provide the best possible patient care. Every time nurses take someone’s blood pressures, doctors consult with patients or administrators review schedules, they’re working with this greater purpose in mind.

But providing the best patient care is about more than patient-facing services. It extends to handling the organization’s finances and operations efficiently to ensure the best care continues to be delivered. Funds must continually be allocated for improvements in technology and facilities maintenance so staff can have the best possible impact on the lives of patients.

Missing opportunity to save

Yet many healthcare organizations are missing an opportunity to save millions of dollars each year. In a time of massive investment in converting hard copy to electronic health records, many healthcare organizations still have surprisingly wasteful print strategies in place, or maybe no print strategy at all.

When you think about all of the different kinds of print a facility pays for – including clinical, production and externally sourced printing – it’s easy to see why printing is one of the top expense categories in health care. With the right print management strategy in place, organizations can achieve significant annual savings, which can be reinvested toward patient-facing services and other areas of need.

One organization that is saving millions by managing print strategically and holistically is Banner Health, an integrated health network with more than 47,000 employees. Banner proactively manages this operational expense as an important part of its effort to expand the scope and quality of patient care services.

Steps to achieve results

Here are four actions healthcare organizations can take to achieve similar results:

Define your goals and policies. Banner Health has strong leadership and a culture of standardization. Printing on a personal printer can cost up to 14 times more than printing on a shared multi-function device, so one of the first targets in Banner’s overall strategy was to eliminate expensive desktop printers in favor of more cost-effective shared network printers (secured with software that ensures document confidentiality). This may require some change management, but it has to be a part of the bigger picture if the goal is to reduce operational expenses.

When outlining your enterprise print strategy, be sure to include all output. Go beyond electronic medical records and process printing and take into account convenience printing, copying and faxing. And before you implement an aggressive, policy-driven approach to print management, make sure your company is prepared for the change.

Communicate effective strategies to promote positive results. When people understand how simple changes to their printing workflows can produce significant positive results for the organization, they’re eager to be part of the solution. To that end, Banner Health created an internal campaign called “Do Your Part, Print Smart.” Internal campaigns can effectively educate employees about the costs associated with printing and the impact that nonessential printing has on the organization’s financial and sustainability goals.

To improve productivity and optimize potential savings, internal campaigns should also clarify the new program’s goals and expectations. This way, employees understand which shared devices they should use for various purposes. You could provide performance statistics periodically to keep employees engaged and informed. You can even gamify the process across departments and share progress reports that reveal sustainability metrics and cost savings.

Deploy a secure pull printing solution. Secure pull printing is a great way to reduce costs while making it easier to comply with HIPAA standards. With this software, employees print as they normally do, but their documents are sent to a secure network queue, rather than to a specific printer.

Documents are held and encrypted until the individual is ready to release the print (at any network printer). When employees are ready to collect their documents, they simply walk up to their preferred devices and swipe their IDs or access cards to start printing.

This simple workflow keeps documents secure and confidential; individuals can only access the documents they own, and they must be physically present at their chosen devices to release their documents. This solution alone often reduces printing by 20% or more. That translates to significant cost savings, but it’s really only the beginning.

Let people know that printing activity is monitored. To understand how company-wide printing habits are affecting expenses, you have to track employee printing activity. This can be done via cloud services or on-premises solutions. Comprehensive, vendor-neutral data collection will provide you with the facts about how printing occurs across your organization. Armed with these insights, you can begin to take a variety of meaningful actions to reduce unnecessary print volume and optimize the device fleet so it’s aligned with lower expected volume.

And rather than regularly reminding employees that printing is tracked, simply keep them informed about the program’s goals and incremental achievements. This will promote more conscientious printing choices. Nobody wants to be the long bar on a department’s printing cost chart.

Healthcare organizations are continually pressured to cut costs, but you never want to jeopardize patient care in the process. Organizations like Banner Health are proving that strategic print management is an effective way to save money and thus contribute to the preservation and expansion of patient services.

In time, cases such as this will become the new standard, rather than a leading-edge example. The technology and services for managing print are readily available – as awareness grows, so will the success stories.

Michael O’Leary is vice president of enterprise accounts at Pharos Systems International, a print management software and solutions company based in Rochester, New York.

 

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