Q&A: Where's The Mobile Printing Money?
Business Solutions, October 2009
Kathie Trotter, business development manager, healthcare, Zebra Technologies: Because of the wide range of mobile printing uses throughout a hospital, decision makers come from a broad cross section of areas such as pharmacy IT directors, laboratory IT directors, nursing informatics, admissions or access management, and materials management.
Who are the typical decision makers in the field service vertical?
David Crist, regional VP, Brother Mobile Solutions: Typical decision makers in the field service market include a director of field service technology, VP of customer service, director of field operations, VP of operations, director of IT, and COO.
Are there any good ways VARs can get in front of the decision maker?
Trotter: VARs can arrange meetings with healthcare decision makers by demonstrating expertise in bar code labeling for a pharmacy or lab application, troubleshooting a hospital’s wristband scanning problems, or assisting a facility that has purchased a new software application with the printing of the labels and wristbands. However, the easiest way to engage a hospital decision maker is if you’re already working with one area of the hospital, look to uncover other areas that could benefit from bar coding.
Crist: In the field service market, there are a few ways VARs can get in front of the decision makers. For instance, VARs that are viewed as thought leaders and provide education on how mobile solutions help increase customer satisfaction, increase workers’ productivity, and enhance service response time can get the attention of field service decision makers. Actual deployments proving the above facts can help VARs get the customer’s mindshare. The means of delivering this education can take various shapes or forms including hosting end user group meetings, webinars, presenting at industry seminars, targeted direct email/mail campaigns, etc.
Additionally, field service software solutions are a key to solving customers’ business problems and challenges in this market. VARs that offer field service software solutions along with reselling hardware are more likely to get in front of these decision makers earlier in the sales cycle. Field service customers with business pain and challenges usually look for software solutions as a first step in the overall implementation of a mobile field service solution.
What effect has the economy had on different verticals?
Trotter: Many hospitals have had projects pushed back a quarter or even a year due to the economy. With the federal stimulus dollars going to a variety of healthcare initiatives, the government is stressing the need for increased IT focus. Many VARs and hospitals are expecting projects and budgets to be available within the next 12 to 24 months that will utilize these federal dollars.
Raul Palacios, sr. product manager, Datamax-O’Neil: No matter the vertical, don’t overlook the option of offering delayed payments or extended terms.
What is the length of the average sales cycle in the healthcare vertical?
Trotter: The general sales cycle is 12 months or more. However, if a hospital is just beginning to investigate new software for pharmacy medication administration or bedside specimen collection, then the sales cycle will be even longer, as the software must be selected before the printers are purchased.
What issues face the healthcare vertical?
Trotter: The importance of patient safety and the “Five Rights of the Patient” remain high priority within hospitals. Many hospitals are waiting to purchase new software that will assist them with reducing errors and improve patient safety and customer satisfaction. Many hospitals can jump-start this process by moving away from laser printers and moving towards thermal bar code printing. Thermal bar code printing reduces errors in scanning wristbands since thermal bar codes last longer than laser bands, are not prone to smudging, and provide an antimicrobial coating on the bands to reduce some germs.
Mobile or handheld bar code printers can provide increased patient safety, reduce mistakes, reduce work- arounds, and reduce overall costs. Labels printed with mobile thermal handheld bar code printers are printed on-demand so an exact number of labels is printed out based on the orders per patient. Laser technology produces entire sheets of labels so what is not used must be destroyed to meet HIPAA compliance. Handheld or mobile printers can be taken directly to the patient bedside by either a nurse or laboratory staff, which increases patient safety and reduces work-arounds and the waste of unused labels.
Palacios: Obviously, utilizing auto-ID technology for hospital pharmacy, laboratory, patient identification, and medical records management is a major focus for today’s health-related workforce.
What issues face the field service vertical?
Crist: Many companies rely on handwritten records, which leads to high invoicing errors, customer dissatisfaction, and decreased cash flow. Additionally, there is customer demand for faster service resolution, mounting service-related costs, and shrinking product margins which are putting pressure on service revenue contribution.
With mobile computing and printing solutions, field service organizations can acquire and enter data related to a customer in real time, away from the office, and can print invoices, service receipts, etc. using mobile printers at the point of service, thus eliminating handwritten records and the errors related to them. Availability of real-time data, including parts inventory, manuals, etc., helps resolve the customer issue faster, thus improving mean time to repair. This helps tremendously in improving customer satisfaction, as customers’ problems are resolved faster and they get professional-looking invoices/service receipts, thus leading to greater customer retention and acquisition of new customers through referral. It also helps to improve cash flow as the invoices can be delivered at the point of service versus mailing at a later date. Finally, it helps improve productivity of employees as now they can complete their job quickly and efficiently and thus can complete more jobs per day. The service organization ultimately becomes a better source of revenue and profitability.
Are there any other trends VARs should be aware of?
Trotter: Many hospitals are very interested in utilizing color as a method to distinguish a drug or to denote something important on a label or wristband. Color on a wristband provides information on a patient’s allergy or limitations. Some patients wear as many as six wristbands because they do not have a color process with laser to denote specific needs of a patient. A new thermal bar code material will soon provide colors-on-demand to be used on labels and wristbands.
Crist: Best-in-class field service organizations view the connection between back office and field personnel as a strategic initiative. Companies that have deployed mobile field service solutions have realized an average of 15% improvement in worker productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability. With the right focus and right solution, the field service market has a tremendous potential for growth.
Palacios: Accessibility is also being addressed by the use of COWs (carts on wheels) where a wireless terminal is mounted to a cart and is rolled from room to room for use at the patient bedside. A mobile printer works well in this case because it is designed for mobility. Also, we’re seeing a trend of permanently placing terminals in the room. While it’s not mobile, it is accessible and does not require charging.