When I first started working with medical clients, I was astonished that faxing was such an important technology in their day-to-day operations. Outside of a couple contracts that needed to immediately verify a signature, I knew of very few companies that used faxing on a regular basis.
But as I got to learn the industry, I saw the benefit. A lot of records were still on paper and it would be a waste of time to type in data before transmitting it. Hand-writing notes and faxing letters was faster than finding a computer and typing anything up. And–most importantly–everyone still used faxing, so everyone had to continue supporting and using faxing. So faxing in the medical world definitely has its uses and needs, but there are some problems with it. Below, I have listed 7 reasons why medical practices must modernize faxing, but there are many more.
7 Reasons Why Medical Practices Must Modernize Faxing
- No verifiable chain of custody – Sending out a fax is somewhat like sending out a carrier pigeon. Once you’ve sent it, you just hope it gets to the intended recipient and no one else looks at your message. But there is no way to verify this actually true.
- No archiving – Many practices need to archive all documentation for compliance reasons. Yet most people aren’t archiving faxes. They get read, maybe some of the data gets entered into the EHR, they get processed, they get thrown out (and hopefully shredded).
- Archiving is likely unsecure – If you’re one of those few that do file away all everything, good for you! But unless you’re scanning everything that comes through your fax machine and attaching every document into an encrypted EHR system, it is likely that at least some of your faxes are being stored in a non-secure manner available to people that shouldn’t have access.
- Data can be pulled from fax machines – Similar to printers, many fax machines store images of faxes unencrypted on a local hard drive. Many of these images never get deleted, even when the machine gets thrown away.
- Anyone can see incoming faxes – Anyone walking by the fax machine can read incoming faxes, even if the “attention” line is not addressed to them.
- Unencrypted transmission – With few exceptions, faxes are transmitted unencrypted and can be captured and read by anyone caring to listen.
- Expensive – Traditional fax machines don’t play well with modern Voice over IP telephone systems. This means even though you have a brand new VoIP phone, you’re probably still paying $100/mo for the telephone line, plus paper, toner, drums, machine maintenance, and machine replacements.
Fax is visual data encoded into audio signals and sent over an audible medium. It was built on a circuit-switched assumption: that the transmission would have the whole communications pathway the whole time. IP is not built to handle audio, but data. It assumes data can be broken up and reassembled perfectly. It does great with data that can be re-assembled later. It is fine for voice which our ears are trained to fill in the gaps when a fraction of a second skips. But when some small fraction of the encoded fax gets lost or reordered, it can wreak havoc on a fax. Whereas humans are built to fill in missing bits, faxes are built to fail completely and ask for a retry
Electronic Faxing – A Better Alternative
One of the major reasons most medical practices still fax is because other docs are faxing them, and require faxes be sent to them. We’re not advocating dumping faxing altogether, but by modernizing it with electronic faxing, inter-office communication can be more secure, more reliable, and more efficient.
- More Secure – Many electronic faxing systems have a website portal that log who has accessed which fax. This gives a verifiable chain of custody that you can use with HIPAA auditors to prove your compliance. Only those who are supposed to see a document get to. They can also offer encryption for transmission and storage, and archived for the long term is usually built-in.
- More Reliable – Fax machines are notoriously unreliable. It is out of paper, the machine is off, the phone line is busy, someone mistypes a number, etc. All of those problems go away with electronic faxing.
- More Efficient – How much time in your office is wasted printing something out, standing over the fax machine, making sure an important fax goes through, calling the other side to confirm receipt, and doing it all over again when it fails? With the ability to fax something right from an email or printer window on a computer, employees get to send out a fax and get right back to work. The system handles all of the retries and delivery notifications. You and your staff get to be with patients instead of dealing with too much paper.
If you are curious about a fast, secure, reliable e-fax system, please call us today. We can handle all of your faxing needs, make it easier for you and your team, and remain HIPAA compliant the whole time.