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Cutting the cost of using printers

The surgery's printers are an area of practice expenses ripe for making economies, says Dr Neil Paul.

Inkjet printers: more expensive to run than laser printers (Photograph: Istock)
Inkjet printers: more expensive to run than laser printers (Photograph: Istock)

Printers drive me crazy. Every year slightly different models come out and all use different toner cartridges.

Everyone seems to have a different model in their room and there often seems little thought to where they go and who has what. So how can your practice cut printer costs?

Choose laser over inkjet
Inkjets are expensive. For most things you would be better off using a laser printer. If you have a lot of inkjets, how much do you spend on ink? Think about whether you would be better off switching to lasers or even sharing printers.

Although new models come out every year there is often little advantage. If buying a printer, think about getting hold of the same model again. It will often be cheaper and you can use the same consumables.

Make a list of the printers you have and where. Do a stock take of inkjet and toner cartridges.

That shelf full of cartridges represents a lot of money. Consider moving printers for which you have big stocks of supplies into frequently used workstations. Why buy a machine that is hardly used?

Don't keep large stocks of refills unless you get amazing discounts. Almost all products are readily available. Consider selling unused stock on auction websites or to other practices.

If you have dual-bin printers, the most obvious place for them is in consulting rooms for printing paper forms and prescriptions. If you cannot afford dual-bins, install a printer at reception and link the GPs to it.

Advising people to collect their leaflet from reception may even be a good way to end the consultation.

Network printers
For offices, consider network printers. These are larger, much faster and usually cheaper to run. We have one that is accessible from our wireless network so all users can print to it.

If you cannot afford a network printer, share the printers you already have. There are two methods: one is free but relies on leaving a computer switched on; the other involves an extra piece of kit, which may need setting up. But this is cheaper than a new printer.

Do you spend a lot of money on colour printing from inkjets? We bought a centralised colour laser and removed colour inkjets from GPs' rooms.

This makes people think twice about printing everything in colour, but when they do, the colour quality is better and it is cheaper.

How to cut costs
  • Use laser printers.
  • Buy the same model as last time.
  • Move machines for which you have a big stock of cartridges and toner to frequently used workstations.
  • Install a printer at reception.
  • Consider buying a network printer.
  • Do not waste money on colour printing.
  • Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire

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