Making the Rounds
In the health-care industry, the confusion that arises from an overflow of paperwork can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. As a result, the political debate involving the use of electronic health records has been alive and well for years. Though health-care’s use of e-forms and other new technologies may be hotly debated issues in politics, the forms industry doesn’t see the urgency being played out in their clients’ businesses.
Nevertheless, some aspects of the health-care industry have changed and are shifting toward electronic streamlining. If the medical community is slow to adjust to new technologies, how are electronic health records affecting the forms industry? To find out how printed forms are faring, BFL&S spoke with the following industry professionals:
• Susan Bennett, regional sales manager, KDM
Products, Carpentersville, Ill., www.gokdm.com.
• Dan Cahill, vice president of sales, Webb/Mason, Baltimore, www.webbmason.com.
• Jim Maggio, vice president, Maggio Data Forms Printing, Hauppauge, N.Y., www.maggio.com.
• Julie Moerman, vice president of sales, Trade Printers, Phoenix, www.tradeprinters.net.
BFL&S: What kind of impact are electronic medical records having on the forms industry? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using e-forms instead of traditional paper-based forms?
Maggio: Today, the admissions process has been greatly simplified. Rarely do you see the very complex multiple-part sets; rather, the patient fills out forms that are relatively simple. This information is used as input into the computer system to generate the necessary paperwork—including patient identification—and, of course, to set up the digital patient file which is referred to throughout the patient’s stay. I feel the major impact will be on medical files and filing systems, as most records will be retained digitally.
Cahill: Obviously, if you get into an environment where you de-emphasize charts, I think it’s going to make it potentially easier for staff to move throughout the hospital and to get their work done. What you find in many of these hospitals is from an infrastructure standpoint. [Getting] hospitals wired and connected in the proper way is a huge undertaking, and many hospitals have not gotten that part of their closet cleaned, as it were, to be ready to move forward with it. You also have to change the entire mentality of your staff and how they do things. ... Not that it can’t be done, but that it’s going to take a while to train your staff on where you’re going with that. ... One of our approaches with this is...looking at hospitals as each department being its own account. ... You have to be able to deal with each of these departments independently and know what they want and how they want it, because there’s never a consistency throughout the entire enterprise and certain areas of a hospital are quicker to move toward the technology of e-forms [than others].
BFL&S: What are some popular requests your company receives from distributors serving health-care accounts?
Cahill: They definitely have the desire for local warehousing. One of the reasons we’ve had a lot of success is that most of the folks did not have access to their materials and their local market because they were dealing with a major or a larger printing firm that had a national scope, and the product was kept out of state. So when there were emergencies, it made it very difficult.
Moerman: We do a lot of pharmacy labels, [and] a lot of integrated cards for health insurance companies [and] pharmacies that have their own pharmacy drug programs and things like that. We do a lot of hospital flow sheets and, being one of the only west coast manufacturers that does mount sheets because we do all of our tape applications online, we do a ton of [them]. I really haven’t seen a decline in hospital mount sheets, so I know that’s probably a product that most hospitals will [continue to] utilize.
BFL&S: What new, innovative solutions is your company providing for the health-care market?
Maggio: We have the ability to provide both unit sets and continuous forms with cross-web gluing. Working with a partner, we are now able to offer variable bar coding, which assures proper identification of the patient with the specific lab tests being performed. Of special note is the development of a new concept in patient wristband identification, which we expect to have in the near future.
Moerman: [A] customer called us [about] a form we had not manufactured for them. It was a patient’s envelope. ... [I]t wasn’t an actual patient’s envelope per se; it was two sheets of paper that were glued on three sides and then there was a piece of transfer tape on the edge that you could fold over the flap to form an envelope. When you think of patients’ valuables, you think of wallets, earrings, etc. Well, it was not a particularly nice part of town and they were trying to put guns in these valuables envelopes and [the envelopes] were just ripping apart. Nobody had come up with a solution to fix these valuables envelopes so that [they could hold] heavier items. So, we came up with the idea of [using] heavy paper, and we switched to 100-lb. tag, and it held the heavy items. We ended up re-running the job for them and getting it done that way, [offering] a solution that nobody else could come up with.
BFL&S: What are some challenges your customers have presented your company with, and how did you handle them?
Maggio: Most of our challenges come in the form of service, specifically delivery. The way we handle this problem is simple: we respond and meet the customer’s needs.
Cahill: I think one of the challenges we’re being met with all the time is to be a company that’s not just going to sit back and provide product, but a company that is going to look at systematic ways to group orders to find alternatives, like any other business would want, to provide products at less cost. I think hospitals are looking at this e-form trend and saying, “If you can tell me that at the desktop I can print on 20-lb. white bond paper and not have to inventory it at X, Y and Z company, I’m going to take a look at that.”
BFL&S: Fraud and prescription drug abuse are some major issues in the health-care industry. What type of secure document solutions does your company offer?
Cahill: Many of the doctors we deal with [just want] on-time delivery [of] prescription pads. They feel safer, they want them numbered [and] they want safe paper, so we’ve brought options [to them].
Maggio: Primarily, we offer void pantographs and secure watermarks. Custom watermarks and bleed-through numbers are also available. The point is to layer security feature[s].
BFL&S: What are your predictions for the future of the health-care printed products market? Do you think e-forms will eventually replace traditional paper-based forms? If so, what does this mean for manufacturers and distributors of printed products?
Moerman: What I’ve noticed the biggest change [in] is continuous forms. They are really going away, and that is because of e-commerce, where everybody’s doing electronic billing and there’s really no need for continuous printers anymore. When a new company opens up, they don’t buy continuous printers anymore—they buy laser printers. ...With continuous forms, there’s been a very large drop over the past 10 years.
Bennett: Though e-forms will most likely replace paper products, we do not think that will take place in the next 10 to 15 years. Obviously, this is a negative for our industry.
Cahill: Technology ... presents opportunity and e-forms. Folks in our industry may be tempted to say, “It’s going to do away with my print business.” ... I’m not ready to say that yet. I think it will affect it, but I also think you can marry that with some of your other offerings in the hospital to create a single source package like we do now, and still bring great customer service to the end-user.
Maggio: E-forms have been around and have not had a material impact to date. However, I feel that they will eventually have an impact. ... The medical community does not tend to be early adapters when it comes to e-forms. As e-forms make inroads, as [they] eventually must, I do not feel that it will have a major impact on forms for many years. Among the obstacles are the issues of privacy and security, both of which are major considerations in the health-care environment. While there are existing and new ways to address these issues, it will take some time. ... I feel we are at least five years away from any noticeable impact on the forms business and, even then, the transition will be slow.