Healthcare In-Plants Thrive Despite the Pandemic

By Lois Ritarossi / Published:

Healthcare companies of all types continue to face the brunt of the pandemic. The people managing the in-plant print operations continue to respond to dynamic changes in business conditions and the need for print, signage, and mail.

I recently spoke with three managers of in healthcare in-plant operations:

  • Lisa Stelter, the Manager, Print and Mail Services at Sanford Health, a large health system including 46 hospitals, hundreds of clinics and rehabilitation facilities in 26 states;
  • Tami Reese, the Operations Manager of the Design & Print Center at Intermountain Healthcare, with 24 hospitals, clinics, medical groups, and health plans in 3 states;
  • And the manager of a large company with a national network of rehabilitation hospitals, and home health services and hospice agencies. 

Volume Dips and Rebounds

When reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on volume, all three in-plant managers expressed concerns when their volumes dropped significantly in the spring. Sandford Health put all marketing materials on hold for several months, Yet, by early summer the need for wide format signage had dramatically increased for all three companies.

For these managers overall volumes have returned. One manager indicated volumes for the year were now close to their budget plan. And in October, Intermountain Health experienced their highest revenue month, ever.

Inkjet Investment

Two managers are making investments in workflow and expanding their W2P capabilities.

Intermountain had planned on a new inkjet platform for early 2020. Investment decisions were put on hold due to the pandemic.  With a sizeable amount of black and white transactional mail on pre-printed shells, Intermountain plans to transform to a white paper factory process with inkjet in 2021. They completed the analysis to demonstrate that inkjet will deliver a substantial ROI.

Sanford Health has run a Canon i300 inkjet printer for over a year, creating a significant volume of print. Lisa’s team loves the reliability. They load the printer at the end of the shift and let it run overnight. The first shift operator reloads the printer and has plenty of work ready for the finishing team on staggered shifts.

Staffing

One manager discussed their planned staff reduction prior to COVID, as more marketing information migrated to online only content. The pandemic sped up the migration plan. Yet the operations team is providing more value to the organization as they manage and streamline the process for ordering promotional products and uniforms for the entire organization.

Intermountain Health had several team members working from home before COVID, due to local air quality issues in Utah. They have expanded work from home and added several protocols to keep staff healthy, including a separate lobby entrance to the print facility. The work from home rules have created new challenges with the planned separation of the administrative staff from equipment operators who are onsite. Improving teamwork and morale continues to be an ongoing concern for managers.

The past few months have presented new challenges in paper supply and delays. Operators had to manage the stress of using substitute stocks that were not calibrated for the devices, adding the challenge of managing and testing new papers on short notice.

Wide Format Drives Expansion

Healthcare companies of all types have seen an explosive demand for wide format signage. Some had planned facility expansion to support wide format prior to COVID. Sanford now has a separate facility for wide format production and finishing.

As standard print jobs decreased, the demand for signs, decals and window clings grew. Staff migrated to different types of jobs as their organizations used signs of every type to keep patients, and employees safe and informed.

Two of the managers are planning on investments in new wide format printers and finishing devices in 2021 to meet the growing demands of their organizations.

Value to the Organization

All three managers spoke of changing their processes and mix of work to remain valuable to their organizations.  By offering new services in wide format signage, promotional products, consistent branding, and expansion of web to print ordering, they are responsive to the business needs of their internal customers and show alignment with larger corporate goals.

Sanford Health and Intermountain Health announced a merger in October 2020, which has since been suspended.

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About the Author

Lois Ritarossi

Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. You can reach Lois at HighRockStrategies.com

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