Stop wasting money: Print management essentials for healthcare organizations

Print management is rarely a popular topic of discussion among leaders in healthcare, even when they're performing value analyses and devising strategies to reduce costs. Many healthcare organizations have a contract with a managed print services (MPS) provider, and too often, the assumption is that all potential savings are accounted for in the contract.

MPS companies provide an important service, but they often focus on only half of the story.

This can cause healthcare leaders to overlook as much as 50 percent of the opportunity to lower their enterprise printing costs. MPS focuses on the supply side of the problem (the printers that are deployed and their locations throughout the organization) rather than the demand side (the people who print).

The reality is that much of the costs associated with printing stems from non-essential printing habits and inefficient workflows. When you attack the demand side of the problem strategically, you can begin to reduce print volume to business-critical documents and then optimize your printer fleet for this reduced demand.

This is the path to significant savings, which you can redirect toward patient-facing services.

More than wasted paper and ink

In addition to cost savings, print management plays a critical role in information security. A study conducted by Xerox-McAfee revealed that 51 percent of employees admit to scanning, copying, or printing confidential information and 54 percent admit to not abiding by IT security policies. What results is inadvertently exposed information, which increases an organization's risk. The types of breaches that affect HIPAA compliance can cost healthcare organizations anywhere from $10,000 to more than $1 million annually.

Secure, cost-effective print management

While MPS providers do an excellent job supplying and servicing equipment, you have to address the people who print if you want to get the most out of your print strategy. Healthcare systems that have seen success in their print management efforts follow these essential steps:

1. Establish a baseline of enterprisewide printing activity and related costs by collecting data over a period of three months or longer. Getting started with the data collection process is fairly straightforward; it can even be done via cloud services.

2. Identify the print-intensive workflows. The data will help you determine which documents and workflows are critical to operations and identify others that could be managed more efficiently or eliminated.

3. Involve the organization's marketing team to create an engaging, internal campaign with a memorable name like "Print Smart" or something that leverages your brand and elevates its importance. Inform all employees about the program and its significance to the organization. Bring to light the actual costs of printing, and show them how much they can help the organization save, both individually and collectively.

4. Deploy secure pull printing technology, which reduces unnecessary printing volume by requiring employee authentication at all printers. In this secure workflow, people print as they normally do — from a Word or Excel document, for instance — but instead of going to a specific device, the file is sent to a secure network queue. Employees can then walk to the nearest device or a preferred device and use their IDs or access cards to quickly log in and release their documents.

This workflow helps people become more mindful of the entire printing process — from the moment they make the decision to print to the moment they release the document. In secure pull printing networks, 15-25 percent of queued documents are never printed and, therefore, expire after 24 hours or some other configured period of time. Without secure pull printing technology, these documents would most likely have been printed and forgotten, generating unnecessary cost and exposing potentially sensitive information to anyone walking by the printer.

Imagine the possibilities

With the right strategy, any hospital or healthcare organization can realize significant savings and streamline its printing operations. It can also better ensure the security of confidential information to comply with HIPAA and PHI requirements.

Leveraging reports, identifying volume outliers, and implementing secure pull printing technology has helped some organizations reduce their printing volume by over 40 percent, resulting in millions of dollars in savings. MPS contracts can offer healthcare systems competitive deals on printers and related supplies and maintenance, but they don't capture the whole picture and thus can't capture the whole savings opportunity.

To get the most out of print management efforts, leaders in healthcare must look beyond the supply side and focus on managing the people and processes that rely on printing. Doing so not only reduces printing costs significantly, it also improves organizational efficiency and information security.

Michael O'Leary is vice president-enterprise accounts at Pharos Systems International, a print management software and solutions company based in Rochester, N.Y. With more than 30 years of experience in the technology and print industries, O'Leary leads an organization that provides expertise in software, subject matter, thought leadership, and best practices to some of the largest companies in the world.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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