Despite Technology, Paper and Printing Remain Vital to Healthcare’s Source of Communication

Guest post by Arron Fu, founder and CTO, UniPrint.net Corp.

Since the beginning of what is known as the “Information Age,” paper has been viewed as a canvas to document ideas, record relevant material and deliver messages to prospective readers. Continued innovations in technology have given billions of workers the ability to connect seamlessly — oftentimes with little effort. Convenience and efficiency are deemed topline must-haves, as we have handy cloud services that digitize essential materials like images and documents. Thus, common tasks like writing letters or printing receipts are now seen as passé as they can be streamlined or, in some cases, avoided altogether by utilizing email, apps and/or direct electronic messages.

Paper serves as a conduit for information to be shared easily among several parties. Because of this, until there is one other common denominator that everyone can recognize, paper and the need to utilize it will remain evergreen for people of all ages. As the original device of modern communication, paper has long held its position as a lifeline for several industries, most notably in healthcare. As an industry that adopted mobile working styles to great effect, healthcare has still seen the use of paper as a mission-critical component to their quest of providing quality patient care. For instance, in the health sector, paper is required for appointment and insurance documentation, differentiating prescriptions for patients and communicating clinical decision-making and objectives.

As one of the standard ways of utilizing paper, printing is also seen as a surefire way to quickly and succinctly relay a set of messages into a clear, readable format. But with several tech vendors proudly touting their robust “paperless” capabilities in an effort to curb waste and conserve ink, it begs the question – in the long run, where will paper end up for our communication needs? Outside of the workplace, does it still make sense to consider printing and paper “dead” when it was one of the first sources of communication? Will it serve us or become obsolete in our electronically-dependent world? No. In truth, paper, in tandem with printing, will always be around in some capacity.

Today, one of the growing general notions of technology is that electronic sources of communication have eclipsed functions that were previously considered the norm. However, in the workforce, printing is a central, vital function. But what advances will industries have to do to maintain innovation and relevancy in an increasingly digital world? Continued flexibility to support mobile and BYOD work styles, compatibility with cloud documents and the bandwidth to securely support multiple print devices within a single environment are a few features that can the healthcare sector evolve with the technological curve while still maintaining some of its classic characteristics.

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HIMSS Asks: What is the Value of Health IT?

Once again, HIMSS is asking for perspective about the value of Health IT. The organization asked members of the social media and blogging community to respond to this very question last year for its second year celebrating National Health IT Week. It’s doing so again in preparation of #HIMSS14.

As I pointed out last year, even though it seems like a simple question, there still don’t appear to be any simple answers. There remains different answers depending on who you ask. So, again, instead of offering my lone opinion, I’ve asked a variety of folks to respond to the question, “What is the value of health IT,” based on their insight and experience serving the space.

Phyllis Teater
Phyllis Teater

Phyllis Teater, chief information officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

The value of health IT lies in its ability to address three of the major, although competing, forces of change in healthcare.  The need to standardize care, personalize care, and reduce costs requires the synthesis of vast amounts of data as well as dramatic changes to workflow and process.   I can conceive of no way to go about pursuing these changes without technology.  The old adage “you cannot improve what you cannot measure” tells us that improving health care requires us to leverage our data, turning it into knowledge and to then build the new workflows that will change the way we deliver care.

John Backhouse, executive director of the Omni Program, Information Builders

John  Backhouse
John Backhouse

Health IT is the means for providing the best possible data at the point of care.  It addresses the who, what, when and where of a patient’s care, which helps healthcare providers enhance the patient experience and deliver high-quality of care to improve health and well-being, preserve privacy and ensure security. Health IT facilitates innovation and overcomes interoperability challenges that gives providers transparency for the patient pathway to improve quality of care and minimize clinical and financial costs by eliminating duplicate patient records, incomplete medical histories, incorrect medications, clinical errors, billing mistakes, and avoidable readmissions, as well as correcting the overuse, underuse, and misuse of beneficial care. Adopting health IT is the one strategy healthcare organizations can take to enter a golden age of patient care.

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Healthcare Providers: Are You Providing Enough Data Security?

Guest post by Arron Fu, vice president of software development at UniPrint.

CIOs and IT professionals in healthcare organizations are tasked with achieving a balance between the demand for universal access to information and the need to ensure security. A recent report published by the Ponemon Institute and the Health Information Trust Alliance shows that the healthcare industry continues to struggle with curbing data breaches. According to the report, about 94 percent of the 80 participating healthcare organizations experienced at least one data breach of which they were aware in the past two years. Such breaches cost healthcare entities about $7 billion annually in the US alone.

While there is no shortage of companies that state that they go to great lengths to protect sensitive digital data, it’s rare to find a company that extends security measures to documents once they have been sent to a printer. Within an enterprise network, access to certain digital documents is restricted and limited only to those who are assigned the right to access those documents. But even a simple mistake like collecting the wrong document from a shared printer can also lead to a serious security breach. Why then does the security conversation stop when it comes to printed documents?

Profile of a Healthcare Professional

Healthcare mobility. Historically, healthcare professionals have always been mobile workers. Healthcare personnel rarely stay in one location, as they are often moving from one patient’s room to another, etc. This mobility also extends to the way documents are exchanged between staff, which creates a unique workstyle requirement where medical professionals need secure, location-based access to information at any given time.

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