Friday, June 9, 2006

EPIC Printing

We are in the midst of implementing our Wave 2 of EPIC and ran into a doozie problem.  The Zebra label printer driver for an LP28844-Z that EPIC required is causing our print spooler service on Windows 2003 to crash intermittently.

After calling Microsoft and determining that the cause was specifically from the Zebra driver, we contacted Zebra.  They are aware of some customers getting this error and said that the newest driver fixes the issue. Zebra Universal Driver

Now EPIC probably put a few months of coding behind the creation of our labels and doesn't seem to want to allow us to upgrade to the new driver unless we can crash the print spooler device on command.

The difficult part in this vendor gymnastics, is that for 8 days, our patients have had slower service because the printed labels are taking longer than 1 minute to print or not printing at all.

What surprises me is that I could have almost anticipated the problem before we went live.  We spent the better part of a month creating 3 methods for printing from EPIC.  The printing system is too complicated with too many moving parts.  Here is an example of one method:  EPIC sends a job from unix to a Windows load-balanced pair of servers (EPIC print server) which then has to authenticate and forward the job to a Windows print server.  This happens to be the method that is experiencing the crashing print spooler service.  The other methods are printing plain text directly to the print device from unix or printing to a locally defined printer of the connected client.  Of course, we are implementing a Citrix environment which adds another layer of complexity.

All testing prior to go-live was successful to appearances.  However, it seemed to have too many minor issues that had to be fixed.  After our first tests, we had 50% failure of printers.

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