Questioning the norm. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make the first major step towards a more sustainable workplace. That’s what Information Technology Division (IT) in the Department of County Assets and Health Department have exemplified in a recent effort to update faxing and printing procedures.

Instead of printing out the hundreds of medical record requests that the Health Department receives every day via fax, IT paved the way for an almost entirely digital workflow; very little printing necessary.

“This project essentially was to create the connectivity so that Epic, the electronic medical record system, could send medical records digitally to other healthcare organizations,” says Dan Cole, IT Project Manager for Multnomah County.

This digital workflow saves 2,000 sheets of paper a week, about one tree’s worth every month, or 96,000 sheets of paper a year. Or in other words: “A really huge amount of paper,” says Dan, “and it’s not only the paper, but it’s the toner and everything in addition.” Not to mention the significant cost-savings from paper, toner, ink, and reduction in printer maintenance that the Health Department will realize.

Plus, there are noticeable positive ripple effects. As employees transition to the new workflow, they tend to change other habits around faxing and printing. “There are other little opportunities that people in the county began to recognize as they realized that, ‘Hey, most of my documents are already digital, and I don't need to print them and fax them at all,’” says Dan.

Adjusting behavior, it turns out, is one of the main barriers to making these types of changes. In many cases, the technology is there, but it’s hard to reengineer an entire workflow, especially when it’s been in place for so long. The Epic team took the leap into digital. Dan says, “They took the new technology and embraced it…That’s the example they set.”

IT is taking a leap, too: They are currently in the process of retrofitting every County fax machine to accept and send digital files rather than printing every document. Dan is already looking forward. “I think there are opportunities we haven’t even tapped into yet,” he says.

Dan and IT have also set an example, one that shows a willingness to implement new systems of working. The reward? A more streamlined workflow, conserved resources, reduced waste, and cost-savings. In the end, the payoffs are undeniable.

The project team included:

From the Department of County Assets:
Dan Cole, IT Project Manager
Jacquelynn Brown, Senior IT Business Consultant
Kurt Kole, Senior Network Administrator
Ken Davidson, Senior Network Administrator
Arnett Mix, Senior Network Administrator
Steven Funk-Tracy, Senior Database Administrator
DeWayne Gibson, Senior Systems Administrator
Richard Atlansky, Senior Systems Administrator
Tami Williams, Senior Systems Administrator
Dan Gorton, IT Manager
Stan Johnson, IT Project Manager
Rodney Chin, IT Manager

From the Health Department:
Jennifer McClure, Program Manager
Zita Borgen, Business Process Consultant
Nathan Thomas, Operations Supervisor
Caterine Blomdahl, Program Manager
Kerry Canfield, Office Assistant
Sandy Ortiz, Office Assistant
Karen Marsala, Health Information Technician
Esther Branum, Health Information Technician
Sarah Kaucic, Health Information Technician
Arlinda Dickson