After years of watching the cost of providing services lag behind reimbursement for treatments, business administrators at Leesburg Regional Medical Center knew it was time to take action.
To stem the bleeding, managers implemented cost-saving initiatives that would ultimately offer better value to patients and to the communities served by the medical center. One of the first orders of business: getting a handle on the printing, copying and faxing infrastructure.
For LRMC, of Lake County, Fla., the management of the printing infrastructure and its associated costs was a lost frontier.
"Not only was the cost of supplies for our printers, copiers and fax machines going up but so was the workload, and we were leasing a lot of machinery," said Tommy Banks, materials management analyst at LRMC.
Attempts to control costs were not helped any by the fact that there was no product standardization. Taking a good look around the medical center, Banks said it was obvious that an inordinate number of machines populated the facility.
"Every desk had an ink-jet printer. Every office had a LaserJet printer. There was a copy machine in every nook and cranny of the hospital, and there were fax machines next to printers, which were next to copiers," Banks said.
According to Andy Vester, vice president of PowerOne—a local IT services provider and Hewlett-Packard Referral Partner selected to help LRMC revamp its print infrastructure—print, copier and fax devices were located within feet of one another, eating up a lot of real estate.
In an attempt to provide the medical staff with the tools it needed to conduct business, the printing infrastructure at LRMC had spun out of control, Banks said. Furthermore, devices weren’t networked, and the printing infrastructure was handled outside of the scope of the IT department.
But not for long. Recognizing the need for a networked print infrastructure, Banks asked IT to get involved to help create a healthy, well-functioning print environment. At the end of the day, LRMC—with the help of outside IT partners PowerOne and HP—pumped new life into the medical center’s bottom line.
Although working with LRMC for the past 20 years, Vester wasn’t aware of how dysfunctional the medical center’s print infrastructure was because his relationship with LRMC was with the IT department.
"We provided IT products, networks and services to the IT department, whereas leased copiers were handled by procurement," said Vester.
Banks said that when he considered cost-savings measures at LRMC and recognized the high costs of printing, he conducted a needs assessment and then put together a request for proposal.
"I discovered that 50 percent of our copiers were only being utilized to about 5 percent of their capacity," Banks said. As of February 2005, leased copiers—of which there were 86—were costing $220,000 annually, according to Banks. Based on that information alone, it was clear that LRMC should eliminate at least 20 percent of its copiers. But where would Banks start?
First he went to the engineering department and had them map the locations, that is, the nooks and crannies, desktops, nurse stations, offices, and so on, where all print, copier and fax devices were to be found at the facility.
"Then we looked at device usage, placement and when copier leases were due to expire," Banks said.
One thing was clear to Banks: Being in a paper-intensive industry, it was important to ensure that all hospital personnel had timely access to devices and information, and that LRMC complied with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
In early 2005, Banks had a plan of action, a set of requirements, and he issued an RFP (request for proposal). He said the goal was to standardize on a multifunction device that suited everyone’s needs. Product requirements included features and functionality, price, service, ease of use, and integration with the medical center’s network.
The RFP brought more than half a dozen vendors to the table, including Toshiba, Cannon, HP, Konica and Xerox. That’s when the company’s IT department turned to Vester at PowerOne.
While an IT service relationship with LRMC was an advantage for PowerOne, the HP Referral Partner was also quick to size up the print requirements at LRMC and recommend products. Furthermore, LRMC gets attractive product pricing from HP as an HP business-to-business partner.
"None of the vendors that we talked to were even close to the pricing we’re able to get being an HP business-to-business partner," said Banks.
However, before LRMC purchased any units, Vester utilized an HP try-and-buy program.
"LRMC could try a multifunction unit and if they liked it and purchased three more, they get the first unit for free," said Vester. He matched the medical center’s print requirements to HP LaserJet 4345mfp, with black-and-white printing and copying, analog fax, scan to e-mail, and document finishing functions. He configured the device for the network and installed two units in two departments for 90 days.
While LRMC orders the units directly from the HP B2B Web site, SolutionOne takes possession of the device, handles delivery, setup and configuration, and ensures the products are up and running.
"There’s no semi truck dropping boxes off at the customer’s location," said Vester.
For vendor HP, it’s all about customer choice.
"We want to make sure that our customers have many ways to acquire new products from us," said Tom Codd, director of marketing with HP’s LaserJet business. "A lot of our customers have relationships with our channel partners because they’re local and can be there for the customer," Codd said.
In October 2005, LRMC purchased four HP LaserJet 4345mfp units and one HP LaserJet 4730mfp color unit. In January 2006, the medical center purchased an additional five HP LaserJet 4345mfp units and two more HP LaserJet 4730mfp units. LRMC has another half-dozen HP LaserJet 4345mfp units on order, which will replace copiers as they come off of their lease.
Codd points out that at LRMC the concern is more about distributed printing versus copying.
According to Banks, LRMC’s immediate goal is to reduce leased copiers by 20 to 30 percent within a year, which means retiring units as leases expire. The organization is also getting rid of most of its DeskJet printers. The organization moved from personal print devices to workgroup devices.
"When we look at a print environment to determine which devices are a good fit, we look at right placement, right usage and group usage versus individual usage," said Codd.
The HP 4345mfp units are a good fit for LRMC, said Vester. "They needed the all-in-one copy and fax feature, which allows users to digitally send documents and data," he said, something the hospital wasn’t doing before, since its devices weren’t on the network.
LRMC resorted to an internal courier service for interoffice mail.
"We can now scan a document and send it via e-mail, which will allow us to initially reduce the courier service by 30 percent," said Banks, noting that a 60 percent reduction service is a more realistic goal.
According to Vester, the HP units were well-received, since they met all of the medical center’s criteria. The IT department had some in-house staff that had become HP-certified, who are able to maintain the new devices. And, because Vester had previously installed the HP 9200c Digital Sender for imaging, learning how to use the new multifunction devices was easy for users, he said.
Once Banks placed orders with HP, Vester arranged delivery, rollout, network configuration and installation. Working with LRMC’s IT department, installation of the units took approximately 35 minutes each, he said.
"As we progressed with the installation, we consolidated fax lines by sending documents from the multifunction printers to a fax server," said Vester. This scenario, reportedly, enables HIPAA compliance for faxing.
The IT service provider also installed HP’s Web Jetadmin, a free Web-based print management solution that helps optimize device use, control color costs and streamline supplies management by enabling remote configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting of network printers and associated print infrastructure components, according to HP.
"Now, our printing infrastructure is organized, HIPAA compliance is easier, we’re meeting our objectives and expect to see even greater financial savings over time," said Banks.
Lynn Haber is a freelance writer in Norwell, Mass. Contact her at email@example.com.
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