An average-sized, 200-bed hospital could see paper costs rise from an estimated €460K per year to €542K per year. Papermakers are increasing their prices between 6% and 15% due to demand, supply, the impact of energy and fuel costs, and freight and shipping challenges. These challenges are set to continue in the current climate, and the knock-on effects are indiscriminate. Hospitals are not immune, as many still record some or all of their patients' medical records on paper.
Why the Increase?
Anyone tracking commodity prices or paying paper costs will certainly have noticed increases in 2021.
- Many papermakers have announced upcoming price increases of between 6% and 15%. (Printweek, 2021), and can no longer absorb the full extent of the unprecedented increases
- The factors impacting increased paper costs are:
- Mill closures (some short-term during Covid lockdowns and others permanently).
- Increases in freight costs and shortages (both for ocean and trucking).
- Energy and fuel costs.
- Compliance with environmental regulations has led to an increase in the cost of paper production.
What it means for Hospitals
While the following are US-based figures, they can broadly translate globally, "The average 1,500-bed hospital prints 96M pages each year – at the cost of $3.8M US" (Beckers Hospital Review, 2018). If we extrapolate those figures, an average 200-bed hospital will print est 12.8M pages each year. Based on €0.36c per page in 2018, that would increase paper costs from €460,000 to over €542,000, reflecting a 15% increase.
Of course, paper costs are not our area of expertise, but Digital Medical Records are. World over hospital budgets are stretched and as inflation increases, we see a drive from hospitals to be increasingly operationally efficient. Reducing the quantity of paper associated with a patient's episode in the hospital is a significant part of that. It is not uncommon to find that up to 60% of a patient's paper chart is associated with only a few types of activities, for example, a nurse or doctor taking progress notes for a patient during their inpatient stay. Even replacing a small set of repeated activities with a Digital Medical Record can save a significant amount of paper.
In our view, when hospitals consider moving to a Digital Medical Record, some of the most critical factors are:
- Ease of Use. It is all too common to hear of DMRs with a steep learning curve, and poor adoption, leading to high resource costs for training and change management.
- Integration Capabilities. If the Patient Administration System works well, there is no need to rip-and-replace. Save on the resources, cost and risk and instead seamlessly integrate with it, as well as other systems such as Laboratory, Radiology etc. Complement your existing systems, don’t rip them out!
- Speed of Implementation. The ability to implement quickly and realise the return on investment. Quick implementations very much align with a phased approach rather than a 'big bang'.
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