Magazine Article | April 20, 2012

VAR's Healthcare Knowledge Secures Bar Code Job

By Cindy Dubin, Business Solutions magazine

A VAR’s long-time client relationship and understanding of its vertical results in a project that involves 800 bar code printers.

Royce Digital Systems, a VAR which specializes in mission-critical printing solutions and enterprisewide IT equipment, estimates that 60% of its business is associated with the healthcare vertical. One of those clients, an HMO, had worked with Royce Digital for more than 18 years. So when that HMO started having problems with its bar code printers, its longstanding VAR partner was the first one to get the call.

“We obviously had a long-term relationship with the client, and we understood their internal applications, integration issues, workflow, and budget,” says Anthony Chiodini, VP of Royce Digital. “While the client did consider solutions from other companies, we were the incumbent, and they relied on our knowledge of their application and systems integration capabilities to win the business.”

One of the country’s largest HMOs, the client quickly realized that an unusable bar code printer can slow down any size operation. The company learned this lesson the hard way when its five-year-old printers started to require more service. The printers would break down, and if not fixed immediately, patient care and company workflow would be compromised. Additionally, the outdated printers could not communicate properly with new lab management software the HMO wanted to install.

Three-Month Trial Wins Over The Customer
Royce Digital did win the business and, early in 2011, began installing the Printronix T4M midrange thermal bar code printers in the healthcare provider’s laboratory for a three-month test run. The T4M printer can run at 203 dpi or 305 dpi, depending on the printhead that the user prefers. This choice gives the HMO the flexibility to modify the printer to meet future needs by just replacing the printhead.

During the 90-day trial, the client evaluated the Printronix unit’s ability to print bar code labels, integrate with the new Cerner lab management software, and simultaneously accept two old data streams — one ZPL (Zebra Programming Language) and the other from Datamax. Data streams are the language the printer understands, and most printers can understand one data stream at a time, not two simultaneously.

With eight printer emulations standard on the Printronix printer, the VAR was able to replace the legacy models without any workflow interruption. In the future, the HMO will not have to replace printers as new software and applications are implemented.

“In the past, IT folks programmed data streams in COBOL (common business-oriented language), and applications were customized,” explains Chiodini. “Planning for the future, the healthcare provider’s IT staff required a printer that would accept both the older data streams simultaneously and be able to integrate with newer software applications.”

Bar Code Printer Install Leads To Additional Sales
At the end of the test period, 200 printers were purchased and installed within one month. Currently, 800 printers have been installed as part of the client’s nationwide move to replace some of its older printers with the Printronix bar code printers. The new printers are used to generate linear and twodimensional bar code labels for laboratory samples. “This is an ongoing life cycle process,” Chiodini says. “As labs require new printers or new medical centers are built, the Printronix printers are installed.”

The client claims that the time its IT staff spends supporting the printers has dropped by more than 45%. As a result of this benefit, the client has started to use the T4M thermal printers to generate bar codes on patient wristbands in various departments.

Having this HMO as a client, the VAR says the project has helped build credibility with other healthcare organizations. Chiodini says, “The healthcare vertical has many nuances, such as HIPAA requirements, a variety of specialty applications, and certification requirements, and a VAR needs to understand that business to be successful when selling to that market.”