The cost of healthcare printing, by the numbers

The cost of healthcare printing, by the numbers

If you could, would you give every single person in Los Angeles a dollar?

If you work at an average 1,500-bed hospital, you already spend that much every year printing paper.

I don’t know how a hospital must get rid of that much paper, but one thing you could do is to give one sheet to every single person in Egypt.  That would do the job.

I have to think in these terms because otherwise the numbers are too big to be comprehensible. They are among the disturbing statistics released a week ago by Becker’s Hospital Review: the average 1,500-bed hospital prints 96 million pages each year, at a cost of $3.8 million.

“This is in spite of the fact that hospital EHR systems are ideally reducing the need to print physical records, when in fact 60 percent of print volume originates from these systems,” according to CynergisTek, which performed the study. (The American Hospital Association says the average U.S. hospital actually has 161 beds.)

“In addition, 10 percent of the average hospital’s print volume is related to fax, which could be trimmed by automated fax systems.”

Please, no. As we’ve previously pointed out, faxing isn’t designed to easily integrate with core applications. There are errors. It’s often not secure. It requires a lot of manual intervention, it isn’t designed to handle critical, repetitive volume, and it’s expensive. But we didn’t know just how expensive.

And to be honest, we still don’t, because I don’t know what 3.8 million dollars look like. I don’t know what 3.8 million of anything looks like. Nor do I know what 96 million pieces of paper look like. These figures are too big to comprehend.

But we can compare.

Let’s start with all that paper. At the end of the year, a 1,500-bed hospital could give one piece of paper to every single American who, for one reason or another, isn’t in the labor force.

Or you could give a piece of paper to every man, woman and child in Vietnam. The population is around 96 million.

Every day, worldwide, there are 96 million lightning strikes.

Every day, worldwide, according to some vegans, 96 million farm animals die, presumably from causes other than lightning strike.

According to the London Independent, this year all British combined will spend 96 million hours on bad dates, many of them perhaps with vegans.

The Earth is about 96 million miles from the Sun. It takes the Sun’s light eight minutes and 20 seconds to reach us.

If you had 96 million in dollars, you could run the state of Louisiana for a year.

But as we saw, the actual dollar cost for a hospital printing 96 million pieces of paper is $3.8 million. That’s still a big number. How can we understand it?

You could give a dollar bill to every man, woman and child in Los Angeles.

There are 3.8 million words in the U.S. Tax Code.

Or if you want better, more interesting words, you would need 4.2 Shakespeares to write that much. That includes all the sonnets and plays, even the bad ones about all the kings.

The 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and our self-governing territories (such as Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa) total 3.8 million square miles. You could place one dollar bill on every single square mile.

If any of these comparisons piques your imagination, let’s try one more. You could spend this much money printing this much paper, or-

You could find a digital solution. (We have one really good one in mind. Ahem.)  Look, we know that change is hard. We know that there’s pushback in any business. But just maybe your health system can find a different way.

Otherwise you’ll end up printing 8 million-plus pages a month.

Or you could give a dollar to every single person in Alexandria, Egypt.

(Incidentally there are 36 million patients, plans and health systems in the Moxe Health interactive network, which kills printing and saves a whole lot of paper. And dollars.)