Document-management service saves $2-3 million

Feb. 24, 2010

Program at Methodist Healthcare starts after an in-depth evaluation of printing needs, outsourcing costs and use of technology.

An outdated paper-based system creates roadblocks in the flow of patient data. Overhauling this system is a major project for any healthcare facility, requiring the careful selection of appropriate systems, proper implementation, and the understanding and cooperation of staff members.

As one of the largest providers of healthcare in San Antonio and south Texas, Methodist Healthcare prints more than 25 million documents each year — ranging from clinical forms to patient brochures. The organization faced rising costs from using too much paper and long turnaround times to produce patient forms. Additionally, multiple versions of medical forms were piling up due to new requirements from the federal government, payers and state-level regulatory bodies.

“We realized that printing operations were not our core competency,” says Geoff Crabtree, senior vice president, Methodist Healthcare. “When we're dealing with patients having babies, open-heart surgery and liver transplants, we can't be worried about printing all the forms and handbooks needed to for patient care.”

Methodist reduced the cost of inventory with on-demand printing, which eliminated piles of hard-copy forms taking up warehouse space. Documents are now easily updated and can be translated or personalized.

To better manage the documents flowing through its 23 facilities — and the costs associated with printing, sharing and updating them — Methodist Healthcare teamed with Xerox Global Services.

The document-management program started with an in-depth evaluation by Xerox of how Methodist dealt with its printing needs, outsourcing costs and use of technology. The team not only found that the processes and technology being used were antiquated, but that Methodist needed a partner to help continually improve services, products and efficiencies.

“Previously, every department sent printing off site to local vendors and national medical forms companies,” Crabtree explains. “This rogue printing included a monthly average of two million black-and-white administrative and clinical staff forms and more than 1 million color documents. There was little consistency or collaboration among departments.”

An online submission process was implemented and an in-house print center was established. Onsite Xerox document advisors worked with Methodist to design more-effective patient communications and help comply with industry regulations. These templates are now used for all printing, meeting the healthcare provider's brand standards for its collateral. The onsite print center processes about 93 percent of the more than 125 daily job tickets in five business days or less.

Methodist also reduced the cost of inventory with on-demand printing, which eliminated piles of hard-copy forms taking up warehouse space. Documents are now easily updated and can be translated or personalized to improve patient communication effectiveness.

“Having so many different suppliers did not allow us to make improvements and provide a better product,” Crabtree says. “We knew outsourcing to a single supplier would reduce costs by taking control of our inventory by printing items as needed instead of in bulk.”

Methodist knew that leveraging a digital platform was necessary to maintain high-quality patient care. “Our incorporation of digital technology significantly cut paper usage,” Crabtree adds. “The onsite print center where nine Xerox support staff manage the millions of printed documents each year also saves time on printing and provides information to end-users faster. This has put us on the right path to meet government digital-records regulations.”

Xerox and Methodist recognized the need for select employee groups to have quick access to small-volume printing. Work areas, such as nursing stations, are equipped with digital technology for printing instant patient documents, such as prescriptions and care instructions.

According to Crabtree, employees needed to understand the impact of irresponsible printing and were initially resistant to change. Many people within the organization thought they could still print items of any size and quality on their own, avoiding the centralized printing structure. Through change-management services, this behavior switch took hold.

The partnership with Xerox is saving Methodist an estimated $2 million to $3 million per year in operating costs. By bringing in a partner with printing and document-management expertise, financial and process efficiencies continue to be achieved. In addition, Methodist has created a more sustainable work environment by eliminating waste and printing only what it needs.

“Reigning in something as simple as print was a multimillion-dollar cost saver that also reduced our carbon footprint,” says Crabtree.

As for advice for other healthcare providers, Crabtree suggests that, before tackling a print environment, an organization should conduct a careful analysis of its entire printing activity. So much of what is done in any business happens in silos, where everyone from administration to material management work and print independently of each other. Reducing the number of people involved in the process of printing and centralizing it allows for better control and significantly impacts the bottom line.

“Document outsourcing is a logical business strategy for healthcare,” says Crabtree. “It affords the ability to easily and efficiently capture, store, retrieve, access and manage records that are essential for controlling costs, improving efficiencies and enhancing overall patient care. Organizations like ours can reinvest the cost savings realized through gaining control over print infrastructure into the clinical environment to advance patient care.”

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