In an age dominated by digital innovation, the persistence of hard copies, especially in sectors like healthcare, may seem counterintuitive. Yet, the enduring relevance of paper documents is rooted in practicality, accessibility, and the unique advantages they offer.
“I get asked constantly if I think printing will become obsolete within a few years. I honestly don’t think it will. First of all, so many documents have to be in physical form for authenticity and legal validity. That seems obvious. More importantly, I think there’s something inherent in our human psyche about touching a tangible object. Whether it’s your kid’s artwork, a favorite book, or a family photo, it’s almost become a novelty to hold something physical,” said Midwest Laser Specialists, Inc., CEO, Josh Brown.
A Paperless Pandemic
With that said, there is no doubt that we are making great strides towards becoming a paperless society – and the pandemic is to be credited. According to KMWorld.com, “a host of ‘no-contact’ protocols and technologies have suddenly become familiar. From omnichannel, contactless delivery and curbside pickup, to QSR codes, Apple Pay, and workflow software, the momentum has swung irrevocably away from paper.”
Even more so, according to global consulting giant McKinsey, 70%-80% of buyers and sellers prefer digital self-serve and/or remote human engagement to face-to-face sales interactions.
“There is no doubt that the pandemic changed the printing landscape, and that’s something we are very aware of. However, there are still so many reasons we aren’t ready to say goodbye to hard copies just yet. Technology fails, older generations have a hard time navigating the digital space, and electronic devices aren’t always available. We must consider these things before deciding to go completely paperless,” stated Brown.
What About Sustainability?
Even with that said, there’s one major con when it comes to printing that everyone has to face head-on if the industry is going to survive — sustainability. It’s the elephant in the room that everyone’s talking about. Should CEO’s like Brown be nervous?
“Sustainable and eco-friendly printing practices are absolutely worthwhile efforts. That’s why leaders in our industry are making investments to ensure that we can act as good stewards of the environment. Between high-efficiency machines, recycled toner cartridges, sustainable ink sources and non-hazardous and biodegradable printer parts, we’ve come a long way. And I’m confident we’ll continue to do so. Nobody wants to feel like they are damaging the environment when they need to print something. Luckily, we are making real strides so that no one has to.”
Printing: A Necessary Practice
In essence, while digital documents offer unparalleled speed and convenience, the enduring reliance on paper copies, particularly in healthcare, is a testament to their unique advantages. Here are the top six reasons why paper copies may be here to stay (at least for a while).
1. Tangibility and Permanence:
- Paper documents provide a tangible, permanent record that stands the test of time. In crucial sectors like healthcare, having physical copies ensures that vital information remains accessible and unaltered over the long term, unaffected by digital vulnerabilities.
2. Accessibility and Ease of Use:
- Not everyone has seamless access to digital devices. Paper documents remain universally accessible, requiring only the simplest tools – like a pen or a pair of eyes. This accessibility is crucial in environments where quick retrieval and sharing of information are paramount.
3. Legal and Compliance Requirements:
- Many industries operate under strict legal and compliance frameworks. Paper documents offer a concrete and accepted method for meeting these requirements, providing a physical trail that is often deemed more reliable and legally binding.
4. Patient Comfort and Trust:
- In healthcare, patients often find reassurance in physical documents. The familiarity of a paper prescription or medical report instills a sense of trust and confidence, contributing to a positive patient experience that cannot be entirely replicated in the digital realm.
5. Security and Privacy:
- The security of sensitive information is a paramount concern, especially in legal and healthcare settings. Paper documents, when properly managed, provide a level of security and privacy that is perceived as more robust than digital alternatives, helping safeguard confidentiality.
6. Navigating Technological Gaps:
- Not all business sectors or individuals have seamlessly transitioned to fully digital systems. The coexistence of paper and digital documents serves as a bridge, allowing for smooth collaboration and information exchange between different technological landscapes.
The coexistence of both paper and paperless realms ensures a balanced approach, meeting the diverse needs of individuals, industries, and legal frameworks. “As we navigate the future, it's evident that the timeless appeal and practical benefits of hard copies will keep printing around for a long time to come, at least in my opinion,” said Brown. As advancements continue to be made on both sides of the coin, only time will tell what we’ll be printing or not printing in the future.