Many healthcare processes are becoming digitized. However, printed content will likely never go away in healthcare, especially healthcare documentation. Printing documents will always be an important part of providing appropriate medical care and comprehensive patient experiences. For instance, because controlled substance prescriptions must be physically delivered to the pharmacy instead of called in or electronically sent, prescription forms will continue to require physical printouts. Additionally, patient identification bracelets must be created quickly for each patient at the time of admission.
This means employees in many different roles need access to several printers located throughout the hospital. Many healthcare organizations overcome these challenges by replacing standalone printers with networked printers.
4 Benefits of networking your hospital printers
Because hospitals have traditionally kept printers off the network and used single-computer printers or printing stations, moving to networked computers may feel like a big change. With many hospitals now using mobile devices for managing patient care, networking printers allows healthcare workers to print from anywhere. Without network access, many of the benefits of mobile devices are lost, which can affect patient care.
Here are four benefits to moving your printers to the network:
- Improved productivity. Stopping a task to print means wasted time — logging on to a separate computer, waiting for the printer to finish the job and then retrieving the printer page. Additionally, workers often have to move to a different computer if they need to print a job on a specific printer, such as a color laser jet instead of the usual ink jet that works for most of their documents. This is especially true in healthcare, with different printers often being used for different types of documents. With a network printer, healthcare workers select the desired printer and print from whatever device they are using – computer, phone or tablet. They can access any printer that is on the network from their device. Healthcare organization employees can do what they need in less time, which means they can spend more time with patients and less on administrative tasks.
- Better collaboration. Many healthcare organizations use a team approach to treatment and care, which means sharing information with many providers and team members. With a standalone printer, healthcare workers must either email the document for each team member to print out or print multiple copies and distribute them. By using a networked printer, they can distribute the document directly to the preferred member for each team and even send instant notifications. Everyone has the information they need to provide the best outcome for the patient, and there are no extra steps needed for seamless collaboration.
- Lower costs. Healthcare organizations using networked computers often save money over stand alone computers. Because networked computers are more easily managed, they require less time administering and managing. Additionally, organizations can have less network printers than stand alone, which means less printers to manage.
- Provide a higher level of patient care. Healthcare organizations can improve the patient experience by giving providers access to the right information when they need it, as well as helping providers spend more time with patients. Using network printers means healthcare workers have access to the patient documentation they need and spend less time printing documents, so they can focus more on their patients.
Securing networked hospital printers
The first concern with networking is often security. With a few simple precautions, your hospital IT team can help ensure patient data is safe, and the network stays secure. Here are four important steps to consider:
- Secure the physical printer device. Place the printer in a secure area, and train employees not to leave unattended documents containing patient health information on the printer. Since not all employees need access to all printers, use group policies to limit specific access to employees who need it, such as allowing only providers access to printers in secure areas. To keep up with new security threats, your IT department should regularly install security patches and update software. You should also secure the HDD/RAM and disable communication ports.
- Keep your network secure. Because of sensitive medical information, all hospital printers should be kept off the public internet. Ensure that all printers are located on a secure wireless network.
- Encrypt healthcare data. It’s essential to encrypt all patient and healthcare information. Be sure to encrypt data at rest, which is primarily located in printer’s native storage as well as data in transit, which is data sent over a network from a device to the printer.
- Ensure only authorized individuals can access and use printers. Require all employees to have secure, unique passwords. You should also actively administer user authentication and use two-factor authentication.
As healthcare organizations move to more digital processes and focus on collaboration, moving to network printers is the next step forward. By moving standalone printers to the network, healthcare organization improve both employee and patient satisfaction.
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