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Penn State Health tackles Covid-19 Challenges with innovative web to print solution

Aaron Tavakoli, Senior Marketing Manager, EFI

Penn State Health is a multi-hospital health system serving patients and communities across central Pennsylvania. The system includes Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Reading, Pa., Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Children’s Hospital, Penn State Cancer Institute, and Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital (jointly owned with Select Medical), based in Hershey, Pa., as well as more than 2000 physicians and direct care providers at 100 medical office locations. The system also has jointly owned health care providers, including Hershey Outpatient Surgery Center, Hershey Endoscopy Center, Horizon Home Healthcare and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. Penn State Health shares an integrated strategic plan and operations with Penn State College of Medicine, the University’s medical school.

Penn State’s in-plant print shop services all of these facilities and has had to adapt rapidly to the pandemic challenges. The in-plant print shop at Penn State Health, an essential and integral communications component for a leading health care network in the Keystone State, knew it could improve its services with a better, more user-friendly web-to-print storefront. The print shop also wanted better integration between its MIS and its storefront to facilitate a more seamless order-to-ship process that could not only continue to provide competitive pricing with outside commercial printers but increase its value to the parent organization.

During this time, the Penn State Health print shop worked closely with EFI to implement a more efficient and feature-rich web-to-print and print MIS solution integrating EFI™ MarketDirect StoreFront and PrintSmith® Vision. By combining the two, orders and information flow seamlessly through the production workflow, minimizing errors and optimizing labor requirements.

Like many in-plant operations, the print shop for Penn State Health is a non-revenue operation tasked with meeting its parent organization’s printing needs, generating about $2 million worth of printed materials over the past 18 months. The eight staff team has worked hard to increase its value in helping Penn State Health meet its operational goals, including timely and cost-effective provision of printed materials.

“We needed to update our infrastructure to stay current with organizational needs,” says Craig Seybert, the in-plant’s main press operator. “We turned to EFI to help us improve the usability of our web-to-print solution and ensure its seamless integration with our PrintSmith Vision MIS. For us, hosting these applications with EFI was the best solution, and having the HTML5 version of MarketDirect StoreFront has been a real benefit for us.”

Most of the shop’s work is produced digitally, with the exception of envelopes, which are produced on an offset press. “Our typical workload included materials for elective surgeries, events, parties and more, and volumes were growing as a result of our parent organization adding new facilities,” Seybert explains. “But as is true with most healthcare systems, we have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced us to end elective procedures for a time, causing the loss of substantial revenues for the system. It affected the in-plant operation as well; pre-COVID, we would have 175 to 210 active orders continuously flowing through the shop and our order volume dropped to 25.”

The pandemic also changed the work mix in the print shop. “We launched our COVID support materials in April,” Seybert noted. “We had to react quickly, and although we previously worked primarily with Penn State Health’s marketing department, we began working directly with the Incident Command Centers to develop messaging and produce COVID-related materials. That’s where our updated MarketDirect StoreFront really benefited us and the organization as a whole.”

Seybert and his team were able to add most of the new COVID-related materials over the course of two weekends. “We received orders within a day of those materials being available on the storefront,” he says. “We are now also playing catch-up with companies across the system returning to work with some elective surgeries. But there is still an urgent rush for COVID-related materials as well.

“In fact, all of our COVID-related work is marked for next-day turnaround,” adds Seybert. “We never would have been able to meet those turnaround obligations without MarketDirect StoreFront and PrintSmith Vision in place.”

With all of this going on, the in-plant went from producing 800 to 900 orders per month to 100 orders per day, many of which were delivered next-day.

The shop also makes use of PrintSmith Vision’s pricing module. “Even though we are a non-revenue shop,” Seybert says, “we use PrintSmith Vision pricing to track our cost performance and help demonstrate our value to the organization. We have been able to demonstrate that our costs are half of what it would cost to outsource everything to commercial printers. And when we do have to outsource something, PrintSmith Vision makes it easier to do the necessary chargebacks for that work.”

The in-plant has also refined its procedures for adding products to the storefront in MarketDirect StoreFront. “Early on,” explains Seybert, “we adopted the concept of getting one product built correctly first and then duplicating that process for additional products. That really helped when we were inundated with demand for COVID-related materials.

“Our goal is to have 80% of our work built as products on our storefront,” he adds. “That makes the production process so much easier, when we are working with templates that we know work well. We currently have almost 3,500 products on our storefront and that number will continue to grow. The truth is, our worst-case scenario is having someone show up in the shop with a file!”

Not only do the templates make for a more productive workflow, but users who submit jobs online are more comfortable with what the outcome will be and make fewer changes once production has started.

The in-plant has also added signage to its MarketDirect StoreFront, largely to meet signage needs for the pandemic. “Currently our signs are produced in another facility,” Seybert says, “but with the increased demand, we are now looking at adding signage production capabilities in the main plant.”

The shop has become a print-on-demand provider with the new infrastructure in place largely. “Our fulfillment work, where we would print and store materials, has decreased significantly,” he said. “We have actually cut our inventories of finished product by two-thirds.”