While it may seem counter-intuitive, the move to electronic health records hasn’t diminished printing’s role in the healthcare field. Printing is an essential operation when it comes to helping patients. The reason: paper is a reliable, easy-to-use bridge between medical workflows and patients. Hard copies of important documents, such as prescriptions and medication and after-care instructions, are showing no signs of slowing down. This is especially important for the large percentage of patients who are not digitally proficient. In addition, the printing of tangible labels is vital to everything from patient wristbands and identifiers, to lab samples and medications.
Recognizing the importance of these printed documents in healthcare, we must also be equally aware of the necessity to keep them properly secure. After all, printed pages contain individualized health information or otherwise personally identifiable information. Traditionally, this fact has been a privacy weak link as printing, if not designed for healthcare applications, is not secure. For example, the format used to transmit data to printers is typically not encrypted. Furthermore, users can easily select the wrong printer or, even when they send a document to the right place, a printout can sit unattended in a paper tray ripe for prying eyes.
IT print management systems also play a significant role in the healthcare space. The EHR/EMR systems are usually centrally managed and run either as a private cloud/on-premise application or a cloud application from a specialized service provider. Printing by design is not very well equipped to traverse long distances or networks. This makes connecting vast amounts of data to various printers difficult, especially when you consider challenge and costs associated with including remote campuses or locations.
With a large number of different, often incompatible drivers printing has never been particularly easy to deliver within any organization. Adding to the complexity, Windows Server 2012, as well as all later versions, no longer offer even the most basic failover measures for printing. Simply put, server virtualization is woefully inadequate to pick up the pieces.
In an environment where someone's well-being is the primary objective and failure to meet this objective carries grave consequences and liabilities, printing needs to be a fast, highly available, easy to manage. The good news is that solutions already exist to easily address all of these challenges and still make overall printing more cost effective.
The most effective solution to deliver printing throughout an organization is to select a vendor that centrally delivers printing without requiring drivers on workstations. This greatly simplifies the environment and allows you to seamlessly tie in third-party services without having to give them access to the entire network.
Centralized print management is also the easiest and most effective way to deliver printing to affiliates or remote campuses, while monitoring and optimizing bandwidth use, providing encryption and securing "personal printing", often referred to as pull printing. Pull printing is a unique way of printing where print jobs are not triggered directly, but are temporarily encrypted and stored on a central server. Personal Printing enables secure pull printing by only releasing the print job once the user has authenticated via a smartphone app, RFID card or entering a PIN at the printer.
A centralized print service for the entire organization can leverage a solution package that monitors print specific health indicators to deliver high availability printing and load balancing to the printing environment. These management capabilities provide increased efficiencies that are not possible in a decentralized environment.
Beyond centralization, healthcare IT departments can also consider a system that is both printer model and manufacturer agnostic. This flexibility ensures that the system will work with existing environments and IT administrators can avoid costly vendor lock-ins.
While most print challenges can and should be addressed with software, available hardware add-ons can provide a simple, cost-effective "hub" to connect remote locations or affiliates.
These hubs are also useful for enabling secure/follow-me "personal printing" for virtually any printer using existing RFID badge solutions. This approach avoids the need for individual printers for people handling sensitive data, which, in turn, increases overall print security.
Considering printing’s enduring importance in the healthcare field, there are a number of reasons to place this process on your agenda immediately. While there is a lot to consider, fear not. There are easy, cost-effective and proven solutions that are readily available to address these challenges and, as a result, free up time and budget for patient care.
About the Author
Henning Volkmer is the president and CEO of ThinPrint Inc. and Cortado Inc. He drives the execution of ThinPrint’s strategy as the leading provider of print management software and services for businesses and Cortado Mobile Solutions’ business class of cloud desktop services across the Americas Volkmer has been at the forefront of technology trends for the past seventeen years, helping to shape both the virtual desktop as well as the enterprise mobility industry. In addition to holding various positions within the Cortado group, Volkmer served as part of a project team focused on reducing costs in the network infrastructure division with what is now Nokia Networks. Under Volkmer’s direction, ThinPrint brand has increased its lead as the premier print management software, while Cortado brand has become recognized as a pioneer business solution, shaping the future of the cloud desktop.
Originally from Berlin, Germany, Henning currently resides in Denver, CO.
Edited by Alicia Young