Best printers for doctors’ surgeries (sponsored)
Medical practice, like any activity that relies on large amounts of data, has traditionally involved lots of paper. This is perhaps the origin of the generally held belief that doctors have illegible handwriting. When so many handwritten notes were being produced, it’s no wonder their legibility became an important issue. It’s also no wonder that the arrival of network and personal printing has had a major positive impact.
Doctors hand out pieces of paper when providing referrals to a specialist, and they hand out lots of pieces of paper when writing prescriptions. But research has shown that around 32% of handwritten prescriptions require clarification by the pharmacist, which will entail a phone call that takes time and is very inefficient.
A pharmacist may even misread the prescription, causing a potentially harmful medication error. Even if signing a prescription is still necessary to validate it, printing out the details of the drugs prescribed, and other referral information, has significantly improved legibility and thereby the quality of care.
The first desktop office printers used impact technology, where pins shot out to transfer ink from ribbons like a traditional typewriter. This kind of printer was slow and made a lot of noise, but even these devices empowered the doctor’s surgery, allowing legible referrals and prescriptions to be printed on the spot.
It was onwards and upwards after that, as printer speed and quality improved with the advent of inkjet and laser technology. The laser printer has traditionally been the mainstay of medical and business printing, partly due to the resilience of its printing. But inkjets have developed too, and this technology now offers similar, or even better resistance to smudging and water damage, as well as competitive cost and speed.
A good example of how inkjets have progressed is the HP Officejet X range. At the departmental networked enterprise end of the scale, these are the fastest business printers on the market, with some of the lowest printing costs around too. But the same technology is also available in standalone or small workgroup devices such as the HP Officejet Pro X576dw, which also offers multi-function scanning facilities that will be very beneficial in a doctor’s surgery.
This printer still utilises HP’s PageWide system, where a full-width print head allows a page to be processed in a single pass. The first page can be printed in under ten seconds, whether colour or black only, after which pages can be delivered at up to 42 per minute. Although the recommended monthly usage is between 1,000 and 6,000 pages, the Officejet Pro X576dw can handle a duty cycle of up to 80,000 pages per month.
The pigmented inks HP uses are designed to be permanent. They are smear and water resistant, at the same level as laser printers, so can be used in documents that need to be secure from damage, since somebody’s life could depend on the information. They will also resist tampering and alteration, which will be important for prescriptions.
Being an inkjet, the Officejet Pro X576dw is still capable of extremely high quality colour graphics printing, and black text is comparable to a laser printer. It’s also very reasonably priced compared to a laser printer, and much cheaper to run than most of them. With printers like this around, there’s very little reason for a doctor to write anything by hand again, apart from when a signature is required for authentication purposes.
However, even the doctor’s signature could soon be a thing of the past, although making prescription authentication printable is not as simple as it sounds. A prescription is not a sales receipt of a transaction already complete, but more like a coupon that will be exchanged for something with real monetary value.
Some prescriptions can be for substances that are very expensive indeed, and also subject to strict controls over usage, due to the harm they can cause when used without a prescription or in excessive dosages. So prescriptions can’t be printed with an everyday device, and the print-outs can’t use everyday paper either, as making a photocopy would be tantamount to printing currency.
HP offers a system specifically addressing this problem called the Prescription Printing Security Solution, which works in tandem with the company’s PCL5 multi-function and LaserJet printers, such as the Enterprise P3015 or Pro 400 M401dne. The latter is particularly suited to prescription printing, with very low running costs, a universal print driver, and quieter running than its competition.The Solution allows plain paper to be used to print documents with anti-fraud features.
The server-based application enables these features to be added before documents are routed to the printer. For example, a copy-evident pantograph reveals a special pattern if the document has been copied or scanned. A variable data watermark prints unique user-defined patterns across the back of a document. Another option is MicroPrint, where secondary authentication only becomes visible when magnified.
It is possible to use pre-printed security stock. However, this is usually expensive and the stock of this paper will need to be protected from theft and misuse. The paper has to be stored in a secure room, and the printers will require lockable trays, plus a software security system that only allows authorised users to print from that paper tray.
In contrast, HP’s Prescription Printing Security Solution uses regular plain paper, so there’s no need to protect the storage of the paper stock. All the “special sauce” is provided by the network software. The prescription is sent to a designated printer with a print queue configured for secure printing, but routed via the HP software, which adds the selected security features to the document.
The document can then be retrieved from the printer by the user who printed it with their security details, like any other document. The controls over who can print which prescriptions, and the tally of what they have prescribed, are provided at the network level, making the entire workflow much more secure.
Alongside security, like every human activity these days the doctor’s office must consider the environment, and HP’s OfficeJet Pro X printers are particularly well placed in this respect. The printers and MFPs in this range use up to 50% less energy and produce 50% less supplies waste, starting with automatic two-sided printing to save paper.
In fact, Officejet Pro X series printers have been shown to consume over 60% less energy than some colour laser printers from competitor companies, thanks to HP’s PageWide technology, which requires no heated fuser element to print. There is up to 50% less cartridge and packing material by weight compared to competitors, thanks to high-capacity supplies offering up to 9,200 pages per cartridge. Active nozzle health sensing and stabilised paper transport means dependable quality and fewer jams for reduced reprinting requirements.
Even without a sophisticated system like HP’s Prescription Printing Security Solution, it’s clear that the development of printing has had a significant impact on medical practice. From slow and noisy impact printers to sophisticated, cheap and fast contemporary devices like HP’s Officejet Pro X576dw and LaserJet Pro 400 M401dne, the removal of handwriting from the doctor’s workflow has drastically reduced the opportunities for mistakes in the transfer of medical histories and drug dosage.
The end result has been notable improvement in the quality of patient care.
The following HP printers have certification for use with Egton Medical Information Systems (EMIS). The EMIS patient record system is used by more than half of GP practices in the UK:
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