In previous posts of this series, we learned about why hospital document management matters and talked about three of the four main categories of healthcare document management:
Today’s post focuses on the last aspect of healthcare document management: printing.
While the idea of living in a completely paperless office is a nice goal, the reality is that there are many reasons why some documents still need to be available as hard copies. Since every printed piece of paper is another contributing factor to the big picture of document management, lets take a closer look at the impact physical printing can have on your document management strategy.
Looking at the Numbers
When looking at all four categories of document management, printing accounts for the highest in terms of costs approximately three times as much as the next highest cost category of storage, according to recent data from 50 hospitals using Valify. This is true for both off-site printing services and managed printing services.
Yet, 42 percent of respondents to a recent survey from AIIM, a global community of information professionals, said recent years have brought about an increase, not decrease, in the volume of their paper records. Whats more, 45 percent of all scanned documents started out in a digital format.
These numbers are good indicators that were a long way from adopting a paperless workplace as the norm.
Despite efforts to go paperless, the process is very much a one step forward, two steps back situation. Ironically, many documents are printed for the sole purpose of scanning them back into a different digital format before storing or sharing them.
There are three primary reasons printing documents might be necessary:
- Regulatory compliance
- Legal holds
- Business value
However, AIIM estimates these three instances accounts for just 32 percent of total document production. This means that the real challenge lies in figuring out how to eliminate the rest.
Document Management: Printing
Document management hits right at the heart of that remaining 68 percent. After all, such management is at least as much about controlling the creation of new documents as it is about establishing best practices for storage or disposal of existing paperwork.
In order to determine the best way to manage your printing needs, start by asking the right questions:
- Whats the purpose of printing this document?
- Can that purpose be fulfilled through digital means instead?
Its also important to ensure that any existing workplace policies regarding document management are followed and to develop new policies if they don’t already exist.
Finally, control the costs of the necessary printing services as much as possible by looking closely at existing vendor service agreements. This should be part of any effort to create an outstanding purchased services program already, but does double duty here by contributing to your eventual goal of paper reduction as well.
A quick check to see if you’re paying too much for on-site printing is to find out how many pages your organization printed over the past year and divide it by the total you spent on leasing your printers (or the amortized cost if you bought them) including toner and maintenance/repair costs. If this number is higher than $0.01/page, then you should reevaluate your printing program.
The printing of documents is but one aspect of a greater whole, as we’ve hopefully demonstrated with the rest of our hospital document management series. It’s impossible to tackle one aspect without addressing the others, so complete start-to-finish thinking is required to plan properly.
Figuring out a system that works each step of the way, such as policies on what file types to scan into, when to shred, and when to print, requires strategic planning that takes all of these things into consideration. Only by understanding a document’s entire life cycle can you truly begin implementing effective document management policies for your health system.