Keeping the healthcare system up at downtime

A digital solution that automatically backs up critical information to maintain access continuity even at the most unexpected times.

Two times a day, staff at the Northside Hospital Gwinnett (formerly Gwinnett Medical Center) in Georgia would print about 5000 pages of patient reports and locked these physical copies in protected locations as a backup. Although some of these reports were rarely used, they needed to be readily available. So that the care team could still have access to some forms of patient information, should any plan or even unplan network outage occur.

“We all know it can happen without prediction, so we always have to be prepared,” said a hospital staff. In reality, some of the printed information could be up to 12 hours old by the time the care team gained their access after a workflow disruption. According to the HIPAA guidelines, these printed patient reports needed to be disposed or destroyed properly, while the fresh ones are printed.

The environmentally unfriendly practice consumed an astonishing 3.6 million sheets annually. Besides, the hospital had to pay a maintenance fee for all 70 printers responsible for the job, along with the toner and electrical consumptions. It was costly as the overall price hit an exorbitant level. “These reports were discarded 99.5% of the time without ever being used, and it cost us several hundred dollars per day due to the necessary confidential shredding,” the hospital staff added.

The tipping point did not arrive until the hospital pushed for a four-hour window of information renewal. That signified the 5000 pages of patient reports would now have to be printed six times a day, making sure the care team received up-to-date accounts of patients. The hospital knew there is an urgent demand for a more cost-effective and greener approach.

They are not alone. In Asia, there is no credible source of data or information detailing the amount of loss hospitals may incur during a planned or unplanned downtime. It appears that there’s still a lot of room for education and improvement in the area.

As for Northside Hospital Gwinnett, they decided to retire 40 single-function printers, faxes and scanners after several consultations with various vendors and chose to implement Lexmark Multifunction Printers (MFPs) with Lexmark Downtime Assistant. The Downtime Assistant automates and simplifies the critical document backup process by ensuring 24/7 access to patient forms and reports.

All new information that is coming into the system will be streamed to secure, encrypted internal hard drives located within the Lexmark MFPs. During a downtime event, an authorized user can select and open a folder from the colour Lexmark eTask touchscreen panel on the MFP and choose which patient records or critical documents to print.

Downtime Assistant can be optionally configured to store barcoded forms containing personalized patient data. After a downtime has ended, patient records can be quickly updated or scanned back into the hospital’s EMR system.

The hospital staff believed Lexmark had provided a perfect solution. “The MFPs allowed us to physically store secured copies of our reports on the device. If the reports are needed, one of us who were given access can quickly print them by navigating the touch screen menu.”

To ascertain privacy, there are a variety of authentication options made available to prevent unauthorized access to the internal hard drives. It is also not able to accidentally erase or lose documents stored in the hard drives. Nonetheless, one can still configure the solution to upload or overwrite documents at specific intervals and have expired documents to be deleted from the hard drives automatically and completely.

The hospital acquired a total of 50 Lexmark printers and MFPs, with supporting workflow software to enable both the automation of medical orders on top of the downtime solution. As such, patient reports are now streamed hourly to designated hard drives within Lexmark devices. The effort allowed the hospital to save over $2 million spent on paper.

“Lexmark had a deep healthcare industry competency. The company asked us intelligent questions from the beginning and showed us how their solution would work for us. They gave us a level of confidence that was not comparable to other vendors,” said Kevin Toenes, Manager of IS Customer Service. “When necessary, the care team can go to the Lexmark device, authenticate themselves and print reports that are never more than one hour old.”