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Reducing costs to reinvest into patient care

A paperless movement is underway at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), and it is fueled by more than environmental concerns and the need to reduce the hospital’s carbon footprint. The initiative – piloted by the hospital-wide Transformational Change program seeking to increase efficiency and cut costs – has as its principal aim the reduction of the volume of printing and photocopying in order to channel the savings right back into patient care.

The paperless initiative is gaining momentum across hospital departments as they step into the future, and do their part to cut costs and improve patient care. Employees across the board are now being asked to discontinue colour printing wherever possible and to transform reference documents into pdf for digital storage. Personal office printers are slowly becoming a thing of the past, as the switch to networked, department-shared printers is now under way. And as expensive photocopier leases expire on current equipment, new and reasonably-priced multi-function printers will make their way into departments.

“We need to get in the habit of automatically asking ‘Do I really need to print this?’, ‘Do I really need it in colour?’, and ‘Can I keep this document digitally?” explains Mr. Elliot Silverman, Senior Project Manager for Transformational Change. While he recognizes that adopting these measures requires a major change in mind-set among staff, “the hospital’s goal is to invest in clinical activities. Therefore, we need to work extra hard to reduce non-clinical spending.”

Examples are being set in high places. Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, JGH Executive Director and Director of the Transformational Change program, notes that he no longer has a printer in his office, instead using a scanner and software to create pdf documents that allow him to export them to a digital drop-box accessible on any mobile device.

“I’ve stopped printing because I can literally carry my million pages of paper in my pocket,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “I wanted to be the guinea pig for this because I wanted to be able to speak to the frustrations some members of staff may feel during this transition. I’ve gone through it, and I can say that it is efficient, and certainly cheaper.”

In addition to replacing printers and photocopiers, the JGH is also ushering in the digital era by putting into place various other paperless initiatives. Patients’ medical records are being converted into a digital format; the Human Resources Department is making the transition to electronic employee records; and Oacis – an electronic medical record including current patient information as well as patient history at the JGH – is becoming the staff’s portal to all patient information, imaging and test results.

Not only does this initiative make good economic sense, it’s an excellent way for numerous employees even those who have little or no contact with patients to save money and thereby make a significant contribution to improving healthcare services, says Dr. Rosenberg. This project also confirms, yet again, the value of Transformational Change in enabling us to find innovative and practical ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency.

December 16, 2013