There is no doubt that the recent acceleration in the digitalisation of healthcare is an encouraging development for an industry which has traditionally been slow and resistant to adopting new technologies.
From helping to lessen the administrative burden on staff, to enhancing the patient experience, to improving accessibility and quality of care, there are a multitude of benefits that digitalisation has brought about for healthcare providers.
Indeed, a study done by L.E.K Consulting earlier this year showed that 65 per cent of hospitals in the Asia-Pacific region are planning to increase their spending on digitalisation in the next three years, with their goal being to minimise medical errors and raise patient satisfaction.
Nonetheless, the process of digitalisation itself comes with its own set of challenges.
Among the common issues that healthcare providers face include resistance from staff and patients to go digital – this usually stems from either a long-standing preference for paper-based workflows, or their discomfort in using new technologies.
Digitalisation is also often a costly venture, as it requires resources, expertise, and time for it to be implemented fully.
“Some of the obstacles of digital transformation, among others, are the investment required for this digital service, which is quite huge and competent resources,” said Dr Arina Yuli, Director of Mitra Keluarga Hospital Group in Indonesia.
“Healthcare is one of the last industries embarking digital transformation. Consequently, resources to support the digital transformation are relatively limited – not only in Indonesia but also in the region.”
Being an inclusive medical facility for all patients – including those who are not familiar with digital technology – is another reason why many hospitals have not completely done away with paper-based workflows.
Dr Arina elaborated: “Change management has been a key issue when it comes to implementing a new technology. Managing each of the stakeholders’ (management, staff and patients) resistance to change with proper communications would be the one of key aspects in the change management strategy.”
The need to revert to paper-based workflows in certain situations like during downtime – both planned and unplanned – also means healthcare providers are also unable to go fully paperless for now.
However, there are also challenges to traditional print and paper workflows that healthcare providers have to take note of.
One such challenge is for hospitals to effectively manage the costs of printing – a study in 2018 showed that the average 1,500-bed hospital prints over eight million pages every month, which equates to close to US$3.8 million of spend every year.
As such, many healthcare providers have turned to electronic medical record (EMR) systems in a bid to reduce the volume and cost of print at their facilities.
“We found that it was hard to keep track and manage the costs of our printing activities at the hospital,” a representative from a renowned hospital group in Vietnam said. “This all added up in terms of cost of operations…this is one of the many reasons why we decided to implement EMR.
“Of course, we still have print services and paper-based workflows as some of patients require it, but our focus remains on digitalisation, as we look to enhance our services for our patients.”
Apart from the financial outlays on printing, there are also other costs – in terms of staff productivity and storage – related to paper-based workflows that healthcare providers have to bear.
“We found that printing also took up quite a bit of our staff’s time, as it can be a tedious process,” the representative added. “For example, sometimes when there is a need to rush something out for print, we end up spending time on refilling the paper or ink.
“In addition, we also had to ensure that there was constant and proper maintenance of the system, which further took up our resources.”
But, while there are both digital and print challenges in healthcare, there are also solutions available for healthcare providers to tap on.
Indeed, one way to bridge the gap between digital and paper-based workflows, and optimise the value of both, is for healthcare providers to integrate them into a hybrid system.
This will enable healthcare providers to pivot seamlessly and effectively between either digital or paper workflows, according to whichever suits the situation best.
For instance, Lexmark’s multi-function printers (MFPs) utilises the Internet of Things (IoT) to continuously monitor and analyse device performance, which helps healthcare providers manage their print volume more effectively, thus reducing their overall cost of print.
The MFPs also enables a healthcare provider’s digital transformation by providing meaningful, interactive data analytics that can be used to enhance governance, identify inefficiencies and help automate business processes.
If implemented correctly, a hybrid paper-digital system could help circumvent the issues arising from digital and print workflows, and ultimately enable healthcare providers to provide better quality of care for their patients.
Click here to learn more about Lexmark’s Multi-function printers. You can also contact Lexmark’s Healthcare Consultant at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org for AP or email@example.com for ANZ to learn more about Lexmark’s clinical solutions and assessment of your facility’s printing requirements.