Nurse and doctor looking at patient files

3 steps to consider when developing your output management strategy

by Michael Campana


3 starting points when developing a strategy

Time: 4 minute read
It’s a scenario that is all too typical on the day of discharge: At a time when critical information must be conveyed to patients — from follow-up instructions and prescriptions to maps and appointment reminders — nurses find themselves walking back and forth to the printer, retrieving document after document.

Every day, precious time and resources are lost in healthcare organizations as providers print documents separately, often from multiple systems and to multiple printers, and collect stacks of paper to deliver to patients. That’s not even counting the time staff must spend maintaining printers and traveling back and forth to them.

But what if there were a better way?

For progressive healthcare organizations, an approach called output management is changing the way they monitor and manage multifunction printers (MFPs) and other output devices across the enterprise.

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Doctor and nurse looking at patient documents

Rethinking paper production in healthcare

Printed output still has a place in modern healthcare organizations. Even when discharge instructions can be provided on mobile devices and prescriptions can be electronically transferred to the patient’s pharmacy of choice, there are times when print output is preferred by patients or when certain output may not be electronically transmitted.

This presents an opportunity for healthcare leaders to develop an output management strategy that helps healthcare professionals to efficiently and securely produce the right documents in the right format on the right devices.

Yet a surprising number of healthcare leaders I met at HIMSS this year — including CIOs — have not yet focused on this issue.

Developing an output management strategy makes good business sense for healthcare leaders. It helps protect sensitive patient information by limiting access to printed documents to the healthcare professional who submitted the print order — both by authenticating the user before a document is sent to the print queue, and through ID verification at the printer itself when the user is ready and present for printing. This helps maintain compliance with regulatory requirements while keeping information from falling into the wrong hands — and that’s critical in an era when an individual’s medical information is worth 10 to 20 times more on the black market than his or her credit card number.1

An output management strategy can also help protect the organization by creating an audit trail of which healthcare professionals are printing sensitive documents within the facility. It can reroute critical output when a particular device is down. And it can give an organization a better view of what documents are being printed and how often they are being printed — as well as the associated print costs.

An output management strategy can also help protect the organization by creating an audit trail of which healthcare professionals are printing sensitive documents within the facility. 

Close up of prescription medicine

3 key steps to get started

So where should healthcare leaders begin? Here are three key starting points:

Conduct a security assessment.
Review printed outputs from every device in the enterprise — from wristbands to reports to prescriptions. Create a checklist to address HIPAA security and privacy requirements for printed output. By comparing the appropriate regulations to the organization’s real-world printing activities, gaps can be identified in print output compliance before they become a violation or reach the point of a full-blown crisis.

Developing your output management strategy: 12 strategies

Does your output environment make it easy to efficiently and securely produce the right documents in the right format on the right devices? Find strategies that make it easier for providers to access the care delivery documents they need while saving on IT costs — and protecting patient privacy.
Take control in a shared-printing environment. An organization can maintain a centralized printing strategy without sacrificing security. Convenient and secure card-based methods are essential for printing confidential documents, even in an open unsecured workspace. Organizations can also encrypt data both in transit and at rest on the printer to help protect sensitive information before it is printed.

Protect critical health information wherever it travels. Information isn’t only at risk when traveling from computer to computer. Lockable print trays help protect special forms such as prescriptions, while ID verification-required printing keeps confidential output safe. Devices equipped with image overwriting capabilities can protect the printer’s hard drive against more sophisticated thieves. Output management software can also help track sensitive print jobs and store their data in one central location, so you can easily trace back exactly where a document originated.

A well-thought-out output management strategy not only helps streamline patient admission and discharge processes and reduce IT costs, but it also helps protect the environment with less paper output.


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1 Data Breach Report, Identity Theft Resource Center, Dec. 31, 2015.
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