by Professional Practice Systems, Inc.
There are two primary types of printers used with the OPTO system. The main workhorse printer for a system should be a laser printer. This printer is used for printing letters, reports, statements, insurance forms, large bulk mailing label printouts, and everything else except individual label printing. For printing smaller numbers of labels for patient charts or barcodes, a special label printer should be used.
While it is possible to use a non-laser printer (e.g. an ink jet printer) for the primary printer, it's not recommended. Many printouts are only available on laser printers (HCFA 1500 forms, VSP forms, Route Slips, and Walkout Statements all on plain paper for instance), automatic signing of forms and letters is not possible without a laser printer, and many of the reports will not look particularly attractive on other types of printers. In addition, laser printers are faster, quieter and cheaper to use than other printer types. All machines on a network can share a single laser printer, although OPTO also supports multiple laser printers attached to various machines on the network.
The actual requirements for a laser printer are that it be fully compatible with an HP Laserjet laser printer. This does include most all of the laser printers on the market today with a few exceptions. In particular, Postscript-only laser printers and some special Windows-only laser printers are not supported.
Our recommendation for the laser printer is to buy an HP (Hewlett Packard) LaserJet printer. HP sells several different levels of laser printers which print at different rates (e.g. 8 and 17 pages/minute) and have different paper handling support (e.g. several paper trays for both white and letterhead paper loaded at the same time).
Laser printers typically require a parallel port for connecting to a computer system. You'll need to be sure that the machine you intend to attach the printer to has an available parallel port. Most computers come with one parallel port although an additional port may be added fairly easily. We do not recommend sharing the printer port with other devices (e.g. parallel port Zip drives) as this often leads to problems.
There are two primary types of labels you will likely want to print with OPTO. The first is a standard sized 3½" x 1" mailing label. These labels are used for addressing envelopes but also for attaching to patient charts and exam forms. The second type of label is a smaller 1" x ½" label used for printing barcodes and price/description tags for inventory items.
For the larger sized mailing labels, an old dot matrix printer you might have laying around may work fine. The actual requirements are that the printer accept standard ASCII text strings for printing and you'll want to make sure it has an adjustable tractor feed mechanism so the labels can be loaded into the printer. In particular we do not support some of the various Windows-only printers that are available on the market (e.g. Seiko Label Printer or CoStar LabelWriter).
We do support a small thermal label printer (the Dymo SE300) that will work for printing both standard sized mailing labels and the smaller barcode labels. These printers are very small (only 4" x 6" of desktop space), quiet, and work nicely.
Label printers typically require a serial port for connecting to the computer, although some older dot matrix printers may use a parallel port. You'll need to be sure that the machine you intend to attach the printer to has an available port of the appropriate type. If you're using a serial printer, most computers have 1 or 2 serial ports, although they may already be in use for serial mice or modems. An additional serial port may often be added to a machine to support connecting a serial printer if the existing serial ports are all in use.
Although most printers, even in a network environment, are attached directly to a computer it is possible to plug a printer directly into a network hub without a computer. This is a bit more expensive since you need to purchase the network interface, it does mean that you don't need to leave a computer turned on just so you can print from a particular workstation. OPTO will work fine with these network print servers are long as the print server supports allowing a workstation to capture LPT1, LPT2, or LPT3 printer output and redirect it to the print server.