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EMR Print Management - Epic Printing Problems & Solutions

By Arron Fu, CTO UniPrint.net on September 8, 2016

For those working in the healthcare industry know, Epic boasts some of the most widely used EMR software solutions for hospital and healthcare organizations. In fact, while they only have 315 customers, their clients include 69% of Stage 7 hospitals in the U.S, with over 15 million patient records exchanged securely on their platform in June of 2015.

While VDI technology has allowed for fast and secure access to EPIC EMR applications for roaming healthcare users, location-based printing is still 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. 

diagram-of-how-epic-printing-works

On the backend of Epic printing, most output is created on the Epic application server, which is in TEXT or ERTF format, and then transferred to a Windows server running the Epic Print Services (EPS). The main function of the EPS server is to reformat 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 consist of multiple software modules running on multiple computers with multiple print streams One of the biggest problems with Epic printing is the number of print servers required and also the management of those print servers are all done in a manual process, which is not easy to maintain. Below is a list of some of the more common Epic Printing issues you may encounter:

Multiple Failure Points:
- Print Queues are on multiple hosts - De-centralized printing for cache
- Domain failures due to many printer definitions - Issues redirecting print
- Inability to provide Print Queues failover - Unnecessary redundancy of EPS servers


Lack of Usability, Security and Confidentiality:

- No GUI interface              - Lack of troubleshooting tools
- Print driver management issues  
- Inability to provide Print Queues failover  


Failure to Manage and Track Print Jobs:

- Limited Print Job Tracking                                  - No Confirmed Delivery of Output


What Are Some EPIC EMR Solution Options?

There are multiple third party printing solution software 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 - Improves EPS and App performance
- Is scalable with an unlimited number of printers - Supports all open systems EPIC runs on
- Eliminates reliance on Windows Print Servers - Reports job status back to epic

The diagram below shows Epic systems with the UniPrint Infinity Solution:

diagram-of-epic-printing-solution

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.

By streamlining clinical document output, reducing the number of print servers and simplified 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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