When electronic health records were first implemented, most people believed that their existence would reduce the amount of printed documents hospitals and doctor’s offices produce. Unfortunately, even with this new technology, hospitals continue to spend entirely too much money on resources for printing.
Current Hospital Printing Statistics
According to a recent study published by CynergisTek, the average hospital is spending nearly $4 million on printing every year. For a 1,500-bed hospital, this translates to approximately 8 million pages of printing per month at a cost of $0.04 per page. These estimates do not include the cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining printing equipment, so the average hospital’s total expense is higher.
Why Hasn’t Printing Decreased with EHR?
One of the primary benefits often cited when arguing in favor of electronic health records is a decreased need for printed documents, which in turn leads to fewer resources expended on printing. However, when electronic health records were implemented, the number of pages printed in the average hospital actually increased.
The increase in printing even with electronic health records is thought to be a result of increased data collection, as well as poorly structured workflows.
Where Do Printing Expenses Originate?
Within the average hospital, printed pages originate from a variety of sources. CynergisTek reports that approximately 60 percent of all printing volume within the typical hospital comes from the electronic health record systems. Another 10 percent of printing volume comes from the hospital’s faxing activity. The remaining 30 percent of printed documents come from a number of other miscellaneous sources.
In addition to the amount of money spent on printing documents, hospitals also spend money storing and destroying documents. Likewise, technical support, maintaining printers and purchasing new equipment run the cost up even further.
How to Cut Down on Printing
Hospital budgets are already tight and wasting money on unnecessary printing can be detrimental to the facility’s bottom line. For this reason, hospitals need to
work on reducing their print volumes and cutting back on related expenses. To ensure that your hospital spends no more on printing than it needs to, follow these steps:
1. Review your current printing-related expenses in detail.
Many hospital administrators mistakenly believe that their printing expenses are much lower than they actually are. To fully understand how much you spend on printing each year, you need to analyze this issue from every angle. To calculate accurate printing costs, remember to include:
- Basic cost per printed or copied page
- Cost of leasing or purchasing equipment
- Annual maintenance and technical support expenses
- Expenses related to storing or shredding printed documents
- Expenses produced by receiving faxed documents
2. Consider how your future printing volume could change.
To analyze current printing-related expenses, you will rely on historical data. However, the needs and activities in the modern hospital are always evolving. To get a clear and accurate picture of what your printing expenses will look like during future years, you need to consider how your printing volumes could change. If you are anticipating a higher volume of printed documents in the future, your related expenses will increase as well.
3. Develop a print remediation plan to reduce expenses.
To reduce the expenses associated with printing and related activities, you need to develop a comprehensive print remediation plan. This plan should look at each area of your hospital’s printing activities and make adjustments as necessary. Some of the ways you may be able to reduce your expenses include:
- Reducing costs related to equipment acquisition – Look for ways to reduce costs related to the leasing or purchasing of printing equipment. For example, if purchasing equipment would be less expensive in the long run, consider investing in your own printers and copiers instead of leasing them from a third-party provider. However, keep in mind that you will need to maintain your purchased equipment and replace it when it breaks down, so take these extra costs into consideration as you compare your options.
- Reduce the total number of devices in the hospital – Many hospitals have more devices than they need to handle their current printing needs. In fact, many hospitals have devices that are being utilized at only a small fraction of their capacity. If this is the case in your hospital, you can cut down on expenses by eliminating some of your devices and using others more frequently.
- Reducing the overall number of printed pages – Analyze your workflows and look for ways to cut down on the total number of pages you print during the year. This will lead to a direct reduction in your hospital’s overall printing expenses.
- Print fewer things in color – In general, printing in color is more expensive than printing in black and white. If you can reduce the number of pages you print in color each year, you can reduce some of the associated expenses.
- Implement digital faxing solutions – Digital fax solutions can be implemented easily in most hospitals. By using digital fax, you can eliminate many of the printing expenses originating with this technology.
- Use eSignature applications – Patients must sign consent forms for almost every procedure or treatment, which can dramatically increase the number of pages printed in your hospital. However, you can eliminate all of these pages by switching from printed consent forms to eSignature applications. According to CynergisTek, as many as 76 percent of organizations with electronic health records have yet to make this change.
Printing is a necessity in every hospital, and it is unlikely that you will be able to eliminate it completely. However, by analyzing your printing activities carefully and minimizing each cost, you can reduce the burden on your budget. For assistance with this issue, contact a healthcare consulting professional.