Hospitals Turn to Color Printing to Enhance Patient Experience
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the U.S. currently spends $3.4 trillion a year on healthcare, with overall health spending growth outpacing growth in gross domestic product.
Faced with spiraling costs and an aging baby boomer population, the healthcare industry is under pressure to become more efficient — taking on more patients while decreasing costs, without compromising the quality of care. This is a tall order, and its fulfillment can literally equal the difference between life and death.
The responsibility doesn't just fall to doctors and nurses, but also to IT decision-makers, who play a pivotal role in identifying technologies that will enable healthcare organizations to overcome these challenges. In some cases, this will mean adopting new technologies, while in others, it will hinge on the capacity to rethink how existing technologies are deployed, such as by using color printing to enhance patient experience.
Improving efficiency in healthcare
Making healthcare more efficient is a challenge several sectors are scrambling to solve. In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act passed into law. It gave the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to establish programs to improve quality, safety and efficiency in healthcare through the promotion of health IT.
These initiatives speak to an interest across the industry in reducing the amount of unnecessary paper circulating around hospitals and the offices of doctors and other care providers. Printing represents a significant expense for healthcare organizations, but one that tends to go unnoticed or overlooked, leading to inefficiencies and needless costs as a result. However, despite efforts to promote Electronic Health Records (EHRs), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) estimates that less than 5% of hospitals have reached an environment in which paper charts are no longer used.
Printing is still a core part of healthcare administration and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. While transitioning to EHRs and other digital technologies is important, printing remains a valuable tool that ensures productivity and improves customer care. Along with digital innovations, organizations need to streamline their management of paper documents. Let’s look at four ways new color printing capabilities can help with these efforts.
Putting color printing to work
1. Admission, workflow and discharge
All patients go through the admission and discharge process when accessing medical care. Workflow in hospitals isn't just a matter of efficiency — it's a matter of life and death. Patient charts must accurately and clearly reflect patient needs in order to prevent care from being delayed and workers from being confused.
Healthcare providers can use color printing to enhance patient experience by color-coding their workflow, helping patients move smoothly from admission to discharge. Color makes it easier for clinicians and administrators to quickly grasp key information and ensure all relevant documents are included. It also makes patient reports clearer and easier to read.
2. Label printing
Labels help clinicians, administrators and technicians stay organized. Adding color to labels keeps patients' key information consistent throughout the time they're under care. For example, if a patient has an allergy, a worker can place a yellow label on any associated documents or equipment to simplify communication and avoid mistakes. Doing so also saves staff time (and, thus, hospital money) spent searching for information on labels.
3. Patient wristbands
Physicians deliver the best care when they directly interact with patients. A Northwestern University study cataloged six practices that led to dehumanization in hospitals. It found doctors can improve the doctor-patient relationship by addressing patients directly rather than going straight to patient charts.1 However, patients can grow weary of telling numerous clinicians the same information over and over.
Providers can use color printing to personalize their interactions with patients by color-coding patient wristbands. This can make a patient's name stand out on his or her wrist and instantly and clearly convey the patient's special alert risks, such as if he or she is prone to falling.
4. Medication labels
Another way for color printing to enhance patient experience is by color-coding medication labels. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it's fairly common for errors to creep into medication or IV labeling, and the results can range from costly to disastrous. Color-coded medication labels can improve organization by distinguishing the most important information, such as "Keep refrigerated."
Color-coding patient reports, wristbands, labels and documentation makes content more intuitive, readable, clear and understandable. In doing so, color printing to enhance patient experience increases efficiency in healthcare. When deployed intelligently, color printing can help clinical staff stay organized and productive while also improving the quality of patient care and reducing costs.