Printed consent forms cost the average hospital millions each year, says analysis

Newswire: April 18, 2018.

Dateline: Mission Viejo, Calif.

The average 1,500-bed hospital prints 8 million paper pages a month, according to an analysis by an IT consulting firm, if that hospital is still using printed consent forms instead of electronic signatures.

The cost of that paperwork, says CynergisTek, is about $3.8 million per year, assuming a rate of 4 cents per page. And 10 percent of a hospital’s printed paper volume can also be attributed to fax machines, which may be relics in the rest of business but are quite durable in a health sector where sharing records in the same competitive market is a rarity.

“The expectation is that, with the advent of the electronic health record, we’d see a decrease in the amount of pages printed,” said Sean Hughes, the executive vice president of managed print services for CynergisTek. “What we see is the opposite — it’s actually 11 percent more. Even with the implementation of the EHR, we’ve taken on more data and disjointed workflow processes, and it takes more pages to account for those inefficient processes.”

The study points out that device acquisition costs (for printing forms and other records) is a large and not well considered part of the costs of printing records. Technical support maintaining these devices is another cost that doesn’t get much attention. “What we generally see is that hospital organizations have a click rate four to five times higher than they anticipate it being,” Hughes said.

According to the analysis, 76 percent of healthcare organizations surveyed, which use a common EHR platform, still print consent forms instead of using electronic signature applications. The infrastructure supporting a hospital’s printed-document approach may also be underused. Most devices run only at 35 percent of their capacity, said CynergisTek, and in some cases just 15 percent of printers in a hospital are being used at all.

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