EMR Print Management – Epic Printing Problems & Solutions
For those working in the healthcare industry know, Epic boasts some of the most widely used EMR software solutions for hospital and healthcare organizations and an Epic printing solution can be very valuable, if it were easy to install, manage and most of all easy to maintain. This is especially true in an Epic-hosted VDI environment.
While VDI technology has allowed for fast and secure access to Epic applications for roaming healthcare users, location-based printing can still be problematic.
The larger the hospital or healthcare organization, the harder it becomes to deliver fast and reliable printing output such as physician orders, prescription labels, patient wristbands, and other important documents.
How does Epic Printing Work?
Standard Epic printing involves print streams moving across multiple servers and operating systems, going across complex networks and then out to printers at remote locations.
Figure 1: A high-level overview of Epic printing in a non-VDI environment.
On the backend of Epic printing, most output is created on the Epic Application (Caché) server in text or Epic rich text format (ERTF), and then transferred to a load balancer which routes it to an Epic Print Format Server that has the Epic Print Service (EPS) running.
The main function of the Epic Print Format Server is to interpret the formatting of the ERTF file and then direct it to an Epic Print Server located at a remote site. Each remote site must have multiple print servers for redundancy.
The Epic Print Server then reformats the documents into print data streams. The newly reformatted documents are then sent to the print spooler in Windows, which then handles the transfer to the network printer.
What Are Some Common Epic Printing Problems?
While Epic provides leading software applications to the healthcare industry, Epic printing consists of multiple software modules, running on multiple computers with multiple print streams.
Although Figure 1 presents a very simple, maybe even overly simplified view, of Epic printing; one of the biggest problems are the sheer number of print servers required.
If one were to imagine how this works in one’s own environment, that’s a lot of print servers.
And with all those print servers comes the management of those print servers, which can be a nightmare to maintain. Below are a couple of the more common Epic printing issues you may encounter:
- Unnecessary redundancy of print servers: As mentioned above, this is the biggest problem facing Epic printing. With many print servers, comes many problems, such as print driver management (each print server must have the exact same drivers on all of them) and each driver can have many print queues. There must also be multiple print servers allocated for each remote site resulting in lots of bandwidth being consumed just for printing.
- Issues redirecting print: Although Epic has their Printer Class Mapping tool to help redirect printing, special care must be used when planning and mapping printer output. First print classes have to be correctly defined and then carefully mapped. If this is not done correctly, problems can occur.
- Secure pull printing and mobile printing not supported: Epic does not have built-in support for pull printing and mobile printing. With many clinicians roaming the hospital with their tablets or laptops in hand, they are limited as to where to print their documents.
What Are Some EPIC EMR Solution Options?
There are multiple third-party printing solutions that provide a platform independent point of control, which eliminates the need to define and maintain complicated Windows print servers, print queues and printer drivers.
These platforms also ensure that printers follow the user regardless of document or printer types.
Using a supported Epic interface, the software receives document requests from Epic apps and then routes them to the intended print device, while at the same time providing print status feedback to Epic system users before printing errors can affect patient care.
Printers are also defined once in a single location, regardless of how many Epic apps are being used.
Benefits of 3rd Party EPIC EMR Print Solutions:
- Provides a single point of control for all printers
- Is scalable with an unlimited number of printers
- Improves EPS and App performance
- Supports all open systems EPIC runs on
- Reduces the number of print servers and can even consolidate print servers to the data centre
- Supports secure pull printing and mobile printing
The diagram below shows Epic systems with the UniPrint Infinity Solution:
Figure 2: A high-level overview of UniPrint Infinity’s Epic printing solution. This solution can remarkably reduce the number of print servers and if print stream compression (not shown) is utilized, even remove print servers altogether from each remote site.
Not only will healthcare users be able to always print documents to the right printer, improving workflow, productivity and security compliance, but system administrators will also spend less time with print related support calls and can focus more time on crucial tasks.
Clinicians who roam the hospital with tablets in hand can easily print to a generic print queue such as the UniPrint VPQ and then release these print jobs wherever they happen to be within the hospital.
This eliminates the need to create multiple printer class mappings since you don’t know where the clinician will end up.
By streamlining clinical document output, reducing the number of print servers and simplifying printer management in complex Epic environments, hospitals will benefit from improved patient care, better regulatory compliance, lower costs, simplified IT environment, and better uptime.
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