Retailers with captive consumers – notably airports and hospitals – used to enjoy a mini-monopoly. The offerings of the shops were limited and the prices were exorbitant. In the late 1990’s, however, airports began to capitalize on their corridors, installing elaborate retail malls and food courts. In some cities, airports even looked to become dining destinations. But hospitals were slow to change. The hospital gift shop continued to disappoint the hopes of shoppers with time on their hands, money in their pockets, and no other retail options.
Now, though, hospital gift shops and pharmacies are starting to realize their larger retail opportunities. Expanding their offerings and bolting on additional services like salons and spas gives hospitals new revenue opportunities. Part of this change is driven by competition among healthcare providers, whose marketing teams actively seek ways to stand out in the marketplace. Online “hospital gift shops” are also grabbing some of the get-well-soon gift business, pushing the brick-and-mortar gift shops into a newly competitive position.
Amy Eagle, writing in Healthcare Facilities Management Magazine, discusses the innovative high-end hospital retail spaces appearing around the country. From relaxing spas to colorful toy stores (like the one pictured here), these retail designs are intended to “distract, amuse, comfort, and soothe.”
The new retail spaces come with a challenge: Where to store all the additional inventory for the expanded retail? Storage space is always at a premium in hospitals; medical supplies and equipment always get first dibs. Space-efficient storage technology – high density mobile shelving, for example – reduces space requirements by 50%, while eliminating much of the shipping packaging commonly found in retail storages areas – packaging which can attract health-compromising pests. It’s a win for everyone – patients, visitors, and hospitals.
The captive consumer, with only a single choice for goods or services, represents the very antithesis of American freedom of choice. While every retailer would be happy to have 100% of the business, they know that competition, although arduous, improves their own opportunities as well as those of their customers. A well-designed space-efficient inventory storage system makes it possible to expand inventory and meet the competitive challenge.
From finance to banking to healthcare to day care, industry regulatory compliance is part of the business of doing business. Part of compliance – a big part – is records management, and many of those records are in paper form. Paper has a long and noble history, but it is a very labor-intensive medium, especially when a compliance audit demands supporting documents for your operations. If your paper documents haven’t been converted into searchable e-documents by a document conversion expert, your mission-related productivity will suffer while your team rummages through files.
OCR adds searchability
Locating a specific piece of information, even if a document has been scanned and filed in an electronic archive, is an arduous and time-consuming task unless the document was scanned via OCR (optical character reader) software. A standard PDF conversion is not readily searchable; to make a PDF searchable, it must be re-scanned through OCR software. Often the OCR software must be custom-formatted to understand certain areas within the document (account numbers, signatures, etc.), a task requiring expertise that may not be part of an in-house administrator’s skill set.
Metadata categorizes and adds history
Auditors may also inquire about a document’s origins: when a document was created, who created it, who scanned it and when, what kind of document it is, and whether it has any related documents or transactions. Tracking down a document’s history is quite time-consuming if there is no metadata. Most documents created on a computer have at least some form of metadata tags (date, file type, and creator, at a minimum), but scanned documents have almost no metadata tags. Metadata tagging can be speeded up through automation, but like OCR scanning, expert customization is needed to make the automation effective and accurate.
Clearly, in any regulated business, it makes good sense to build a searchable, categorized document database that supports compliance. But it’s complicated. And a less-than-expertly created database is unreliable, and often unnecessarily expensive. Follow the advice of Inc. Magazine to find a skilled, experienced vendor to take your enterprise through the document conversion process:
Talk to a vendor’s former employees
Talk to a vendor’s customers who have provided testimonials
Look at employee reviews
Think like a journalist doing investigative research
With a well-designed and compliant digital document database in place, you can spend your time making your business productive and profitable.
We all got the memo about the value of big data. Digital consolidation makes an organization’s masses of information more useful, and more available, than having silos of electronic files and archived paper documents. Big data promises to let you find all the documents related to a legal case with one click on your keyboard, or compare patient outcomes with one query, or determine exactly why a product is selling well in Peoria – fast, easy answers that make our businesses more productive and more profitable.
The promise is proving to be true in many ways. However, the raw data often arrives via multiple channels ranging from paper documents to emails to websites. The quantity of data trying to enter the data capture funnel is threatening to overwhelm the people who have the task of inputting and harnessing the data.
Without input automation, data capture is very labor intensive. One example: The New York Times reports that physicians are spending more than 50% of their time entering data into electronic medical records (EMR’s). There’s no question that EMR’s are a vital part of healthcare management. Nevertheless, data entry is not the most productive use of doctors’ time.
John Mancini, president and CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) recommends automating as much of the data input as possible, using intelligent technology that can handle data from any source, in any format. He lists the five steps to streamlining the movement of data from its origin through to the knowledge workers downstream.
Ingestion – be prepared for data arriving from many sources
Extraction – use multiple extraction techniques to get the greatest amount of data
Classification – identify the type of data and direct it toward the end users
Validation – check the data against standards and/or other validated data
Connection – make the data accessible to the systems and knowledge workers who need it to make the business run better
Document conversion is a big part of data capture. When data exists only on paper, it is isolated from the big-data system. It is invisible to end users who don’t know it exists. As an informational asset, it has very little value.
But once a document is ingested and converted into a digital format, intelligent data can be extracted from it. It suddenly gains value, as knowledge workers apply the data in making better business decisions. It becomes a true business asset.
A properly planned and executed document conversion project automates much of the ingestion process, eliminating the labor-intensive bottleneck that so often stymies organizations’ efforts to reap the benefits of big data. Bottlenecks are bad enough on city streets; why have them in your business?
Ten years and $2.5 billion – that’s what it takes to bring a new drug to market these days, says the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Time is money, and drug companies are starting to design their labs with speed in mind. As Mitchell Weitz of Bristol-Myers Squibb states in LabDesignNews.com, the goal is to “break the physical and logical barriers to getting work done.”
Technology is part of the picture, of course. At Johnson & Johnson, employees are provided with an array of supportive technology, from laptop docking stations and virtual collaboration rooms to walk-up tech-support kiosks. Employees are encouraged to choose workspaces that suit them and the work they are doing. And because employees are empowered to define their work areas, formerly-distributed teams can now collaborate in the same physical space, and quick face-to-face decision-making can speed the work along.
Giving individuals and teams this kind of autonomy and mobility means lab spaces must be able to turn on a dime, changing form and function as quickly as the teams using them make decisions. Solid walls and built-in casework take time to remove, and even more time and expense to re-build, and designers are turning to modular casework to speed up the reconfiguration of labs. These “building blocks” of cabinetry can be assembled in an almost infinite variety of combinations. Wall units can be repurposed as work benches; fixed work benches can transform into mobile workstations; large runs of cabinetry can be divided and re-used in a number of small rooms. And not only does modular casework save time, it saves the cost of re-building casework from scratch.
Agility-driven design choices of this type can be seen everywhere in the new pharma labs. Designers have calculated walk times from one building to another, analyzed the speed of new-technology adoption, and included such holistic elements as stairways and lounges to encourage serendipitous exercise and face time. As labs get faster, and incremental time savings add up to cost savings, the benefit of speed is readily apparent: new remedies, produced efficiently and profitably, and delivered affordably to improve everyone’s health.
It happens every year around this time – the season for end-of-year tax deductions. The Section 179 tax rule gives businesses an opportunity to write off as much as $500,000 in new and used equipment costs. Equipment or software purchased and put into service by December 31st is deducted from your business’s gross income – it’s as simple as that. And depreciation boosts the total tax reduction even more.
The tax experts at Section179.org provide in-depth information on this valuable tax strategy, and the calculator from Crest Capital shows the savings.
The key phrase in Section 179 is “put into service.” With only a month left in 2016, many kinds of business equipment simply can’t be delivered and put into service before the end of the year. The good news: There’s a wide variety of high density storage, RFID systems, and modular furnishings on a quick-order program. Talk to your tax advisor, then talk to your local storage professional to find out which new and efficient storage systems can help your business qualify for this attractive deduction. Don’t waste a minute!
Sitting in a healthcare waiting room usually rates quite low on the good-times scale, and quite high on the stress scale. With today’s trend toward “patient as consumer,” designers are looking at ways to make waiting rooms more user-friendly.
A recent study at a major healthcare facility defined the shortcomings in waiting room designs, including:
Seating that blocked views to information sources (reception personnel, exam room entries)
Little space for personal belongings
Insufficient access to power sources for tablets and laptops
Lack of privacy and seating for family groups
The researchers recommended re-designing waiting rooms to:
Accommodate a variety of activities – work, rest, etc. – that might vary over time
Improve privacy while adapting to large and small family groups as needed
Increase space for personal belongings
Enhance access to power plugs for all our modern e-devices.
Reconfigurable furnishings have a big role to play in the new patient-centered waiting room designs. Seating and tables that can easily adapt to changing needs, even multiple times in a day, will go a long way toward creating an ideal patient-centered atmosphere. This video shows how one healthcare provider transformed their waiting room with reconfigurable furnishings: