Commentary & Analysis
Knocking the Socks off the Healthcare Industry
By Carole Alexander Printers need to become part of their client'
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 5, 2004
By Carole Alexander Printers need to become part of their client's bottom line April 5, 2004 -- We talk a lot these days about printers changing their image from being "just a printer," to becoming a "communications company." We mean that a printer must expand the services they sell to each client, move toward those that are higher margin, and become more of a one-stop-shop. They should get collaborative and closer to their client's business and become part of internal initiatives such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). With digital printing, they can become involved in transactional documents, such as billing and statements, and direct marketing. And when a printer doesn't want to take on the additional services in-house, it is suggested that they partner and outsource. Most importantly, they need to become part of their client's bottom line. I recently spoke with one of those new printers. Relizon seems to know how to embrace a vertical market and make a difference. Relizon, headquartered in Dayton OH, has quadrupled in size over the past 10 years through adding new services such as billing, marketing and direct mail. According to Patricia Howe, VP of Strategic Planning and Communications, Relizon started with offset technology, and expanded to digital and other services, believing that "each technology has its sweet spot." They use strategic partners for many capabilities that they outsource, even though the company has 20 manufacturing facilities and is one of the top-ten print-for-pay companies. Relizon is following in the rather large footprints of its former parent company, Reynolds and Reynolds, which has brought hundreds of communication solutions to automotive retailing over more than a century. Relizon is approaching the healthcare market with the same comprehensive attitude. They seem to know how to embrace a vertical market and make a difference. And they are knocking the socks off the healthcare industry. Total Business Communications Relizon describes itself as the North American leader in total business communications. They provide document solutions that streamline internal processes, billing solutions that improve cash flow, and innovative marketing solutions that create profitable client relationships. And that does not begin to describe all the services involved, from document output management software, to web solutions, one-to-one marketing, workflow and process consulting and products, mailing programs, tax forms, label printing, billing and marketing solutions, CRM solutions and more. While focusing on certain core industries, including Financials, Technology, Manufacturing, Non-Profit, Communications and Retail, they recently won $30M in new healthcare business contracts and I was most impressed with the giant strides they are making in this area. We all know that the Healthcare industry is very paper intensive. As patients, we spend endless time waiting, filling out forms over and hoping the hospital has our paperwork correct so we aren't treated for the wrong ailment. In working with the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Relizon provided and centralized a document management system that cut costs to less than 1/2 the industry average. This system is one of the largest not-for-profit community-owned healthcare systems in the country, with 13 hospitals and 22 clinics, and have some unique requirements. Their document system manages over 13,000 employees and patients while returning a large portion of its revenues back to the community in the form of un reimbursed charity care. You can see why it would behoove Memorial Hermann to use document strategies and techniques that provide significant cost benefits and operational efficiencies to offset the un reimbursed care. Relizon was able to meet or exceed expectations including ROI, process improvement and document strategy development. They consolidated many forms specific to each facility and created system-wide documents while maintaining characteristics required by each facility. They positively impacted processes in areas not originally envisonioned, such as direct marketing. They improved inventory turn rate to every 6 months, with less than 1 percent obsolescence (compared to an industry average of 10-15%.) Patient Admissions Solution we don't really have a satisfactory term for this new type of printer. Similar successes have occurred at Northwest Community Hospital where Relizon implemented a Patient Admissions Solution, eliminating 60% of paper usage. Imagine a hospital that believes "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" and wants it to be positive. With Hallmark Health Systems, Relizon called on a subsidiary company, Epsilon, to apply billing solutions that improved cash flow and billing accuracy. A bonus is that calls to the hospital are now less frequent and easier to handle. "We try to distinguish ourselves, " says Dale Maloney, Director of Document Management Services and Digital Solutions, "by how we address the customer relationship. We really understand the customer's requirements." In particular, Relizon uses some analytical tools, such as a Document Solutions Analysis (DSA). Maloney describes this as "a comprehensive analysis of the client's document workflow and business processes, both paper based and electronic." Relizon then looks for the most effective output strategy, incorporating corporate identity management, storage capability and in compliance with the supply strategy and performance metrics. According to Howe, "We end up with a huge database that we use as a roadmap to drive costs out of their business, with 16% or better savings." Relizon will also perform full database builds, data mine for specific attributes and develop campaigns either working with, supporting or being the agency. Howe adds, "Relizon prides itself on managing the document throughout its life cycle, which sometimes means outsourcing the management of the print shop." Describing the typical hospital print shop, Maloney explains, "Healthcare customers like to see the DSA, since this industry is overwhelmed with running their onsite digital centers and print shops. Relizon uses very specific tools to evaluate the shop. The Materials Manager in a hospital Purchasing Dept. manages 30,000 items and printing too. They are the modern day supply chain manager, responsible for acquisition strategies from surgical tools, landscaping, forms, printing, copiers, all of which have a different cost basis." He continues, "Since print is not a core competency it is hard to get a good ROI. Hospitals, in particular, run print shops as an 8-5 convenience service. And convenience is expensive." Hospital print shops are typically over-equipped. Brand management is often lost, while out-of-date forms are printed and many departments are printing the same item each day with no efficiencies. Howe explains, "We step in and bring in to play corporate standards, legal review, reordering, inventory management, right revisions, cost accounting, usage to the end user level and the real cost of the operation—the cost per patient. Then we implement strategies and processes that drive down the cost of service." If they have "hopelessly poor equipment," Relizon will help them dispose of it and will step up to become their outsourced printer. Driving down costs for healthcare may help us all in the end. For the time being it is good to know that, in a Relizon document-managed hospital, the surgery schedule decided at 5:30 can be printed accurately by 7:00-- just in case it is our surgery. And that our nurse is looking in an accurate hospital photo album to identify our doctor. Not to mention the comfort that comes from signing a form you can be certain is not mistakenly a release for your body parts. One further thought is that we don't really have a satisfactory term for this new type of printer. Yes, they provide services that communicate, but the term "communications company" to most people means dotcoms, telecoms or publishing. Just because they provide a full landscape of services doesn't mean we call them landscapers. It seems like they should have a more distinctive name because these new printers are changing the face of document management in entire industries, affecting the bottom line for all of us. If you think of a good name, let me know.