Healthcare operations in the hospital environment is complex. It is riddled with regulatory risks and operational/process landmines. Government regulations such as HIPAA can create challenges in meeting requirements for other regulatory agencies related discharge instructions and other printed patient resources. For Workstations on Wheels (WOW’s) that are configured with automatic printing and/or preplanned print mapping, documents often end up printing to the wrong printer for various reasons (i.e., outdated settings or incorrect location for WOW). This leads to documents containing protected health information (PHI) sitting in the wrong printer or department. These documents often pile upbecause staff on that unit don’t know who printed them. These lost print jobs can then become comingled with other documents such as discharge instructions. Before you know it-voilà! We have abreach of PHI. It doesn’t matter which organization or enterprise you look at-the vast majority all face these same challenges.
One solution that is being used to manage the printing of documentation involves “Pull Printing.” This controls where and when a print job is completed. This technology can significantly reduce the risk of PHI appearing all over the hospital in incorrect departments. Pull Printing reroutes print jobs to a remote network queue. After the user taps a proximity badge, which is linked to that user, the document(s) print at a designated printer. This ability to “print on demand” eliminates documents printing to unknown printers and can significantly decrease incidents of comingled documents being distributed to the wrong patient. While “Pull Printing” is a viable solution, a detailed clinical assessment does need to be completed to ensure this solution does not negatively impact care delivery and workflow. Although items such as discharge instructions and education resources do not require direct printing, other documents such as lab requisitions and Blood Bank requisitions often need to print upon the release of the order-especially in emergent situations.
The use of print management systems will continue to grow as it can dramatically decrease risks if executed correctly. As organizations look at different avenues to mitigate the potential risk of breeching HIPAA and other regulations related to protecting PHI, the journey needs to be balanced against the impact to patient care. Understanding how and why care providers perform the care of patients can make a difference in how measures are implemented. Therefore, it can positively or (more often than not) negatively impact end user satisfaction and overall perception of Healthcare IT department.