Methodist Healthcare operates eight hospitals and 16 other health-related facilities, making it the largest healthcare network in south Texas. This means its facilities are sometimes overflowing with all the various forms that must be filled out by doctors, nurses, technicians and patients. Many of those patients are Hispanic – in fact, two hospitals from the Methodist Healthcare system in the San Antonio, TX, region, recently became the latest Methodist facilities to be accredited as Hispanic Healthcare Hospitals by the Diversity Healthcare Program of Mexico.
Luckily, Methodist is able to cost effectively provide an extensive array of printed materials in English and Spanish because it has its own in-house print center. Thanks to some recent updates to the 10-year-old operation, which is managed by Xerox, Methodist now prints all of its documents on demand and produces the approximately 10,000 patient handbooks that are needed in-house per month.
“As the second largest employer in San Antonio, we produce a lot of collateral. We’re always striving to make the print center more efficient,” said Geoff Crabtree, VP of market services and strategic planning at Methodist Healthcare. “With more control of our printing internally, we can tailor-make all our printing in a highly targeted manner and print those materials just in time.”
Cost control is an important appeal
While many hospitals farm out the printing of these forms, Methodist decided to bring this service in-house to have more control over costs. As a result, the hospital network now saves between $3 million and $5 million annually, Crabtree estimates.
One addition to the print center in the past year has been the Xerox Nuvera 120 EA Production System with booklet maker, which is capable of printing 120 high-quality, black-and-white pages per minute.
The print center also houses two DocuTech 6115 Production Publishers, one iGen3 Digital Production Press and a Heidelberg offset press.
Methodist decided to invest in the large-scale unit in order to bring the production of its patient handbook in-house. Because the information in the handbook can change on a moment’s notice, bulk quantities of the booklet would become quickly outdated and end up being thrown out. “Now, we don’t have any problem with waste,” Crabtree says, adding that Methodist now saves several cents per book.
The print center, which is located in an old cafeteria and has a staff of 10, also added a second shift to its operating schedule in the past year.
Methodist and Xerox personnel consult on strategic marketing for the healthcare organization. Xerox’s
Michael Schaefer is the print center’s site manager and attends a weekly meeting with Methodist managers to discuss marketing, strategic planning and operations. Xerox also manages print projects that need to be outsourced, such as oversized banners, and delivers and monitors marketing collateral from Methodist that is placed in doctors’ offices.
Bringing in new equipment and extending the print center’s hours has enabled another change — the elimination of all printing inventory.
“This summer was the first time we eliminated all inventory,” says Schaefer. “Now, Methodist is fully print-on demand, which avoids the need for inventory and reduces costs.”
Making this change meant taking all forms and marketing materials and creating a digital version that can be printed as needed. Besides eliminating inventory, the move has enabled Methodist to more seamlessly tie together digital marketing materials with the organization’s CRM database.
For example, Methodist has an affinity program for children under age 10, called Young Heroes’ Club.
Anyone who signs up receives a membership kit and birthday card each year. Methodist mails approximately 10,000 cards each year. In the past, the organization had printed all of the cards at the beginning of the year and sent them out as needed.
However, now a personalized birthday card is generated automatically at the appropriate time, saving time and money.
Direct mail targeting made easier
By linking its CRM database with the digital presses, the healthcare organization is also able to better target direct mail promoting upcoming programs about cholesterol or mammograms, says Crabtree.
Other materials are also being printed on the spot. For example, educational materials given to some discharged patients can be individualized to the patient’s needs at a computer terminal and printed at the time of discharge by hospital personnel.
Methodist and Xerox also look for opportunities that eliminate printing a hard copy for some items all together. “The future for us is narrowing down what needs to be printed in hard copy and what can exist in digital format,” says Schaefer. “Striving for efficiency may mean printing less sometimes,” he adds, noting that this was quite a mindset shift for him when he began working with Methodist.
Right now, Schaefer is working with Methodist on the opening of a new hospital next year with all new forms. “We’re working with nursing, information services and others to get the information we need and on moving documents to an electronic form where it makes sense,” he says.
Crabtree would also like to explore how to bring some of the efficiencies gained from print-on-demand straight to hospital unit floors. “How does that occur on the unit floor vs. having to order something from the print center?” he asks. “How do we take what is very successful and move it out into modules around our organization that are easy to access? The goal of everything we do is to become even more efficient.”
Overall, hospitals lag behind other segments when it comes to adopting digital print, says Michael O’Leary, director of document outsourcing consulting services at InfoTrends. However, due to tight funds, O’Leary sees several developments that may make it easier for hospitals to consider digital print, he says.
Are hospitals making digital print a part of their marketing strategy?
Many marketing efforts are being outsourced to digital print providers by larger, more progressive hospitals. As the cost of color digital print comes down, you are going to see hospitals doing more marketing as they become more of an advisory arm to their communities.
What are the benefits to hospitals of moving to digital print?
By moving forms to digital and printing them on demand, hospitals typically are more compliant with healthcare regulations and reduce costs. This is significant, because forms can change rapidly in the healthcare environment.
How will the economy affect the adoption rate of digital print in hospitals?
I think it will continue to be a slow migration. One development that is helping is hospitals can now buy software off the shelf for their in-plant print centers — a few years ago, hospital Web portals had to be custom designed.