While the fax machine has become a bit of a dinosaur in many business offices, its prominence persists for a majority of private medical practices. Studies from only a few years ago reveal over 60 percent of healthcare providers relied on the fax machine as a primary means of communicating and sharing information with otherproviders, billers and insurers.
The Pull of the Fax
One of the biggest advantages of a fax machine for healthcare providers is that it allows easy transmission of handwritten information, diagrams, and drawings, plus the secure transmission of test results, prescriptions and other sensitive patient communication that would be illegal to send via ordinary email.
Fax machines offer the convenience of being almost universally available in the healthcare sector, and there’s the expectation of reasonable privacy and security as the sender must already have a Business Associate Agreement required by HIPAA in order to send patient data to the recipient, but fax transmissions are seldom integrated into the medical office’s IT system.
Not the Perfect Solution
Even with the advantages, there are still other more serious drawbacks. Faxed pages can be lost, incorrectly distributed, improperly collated, or worse, attached to the wrong patient file. There can be a delay in the faxed communication reaching its intended recipient as healthcare facilities often limit access to the fax machine for patient privacy reasons. Fax machines can run out of paper, phone lines can be busy and toner can run dry. An error in just a single digit opens up the risk of allowing private patient information to be sent to a completely unintended recipient.
To address these issues, some healthcare providers are turning to newer technologies, like software-based faxing or more comprehenesive EHR and practice management software like PracticeSuite that offers integrated internal eFax that tracks and insures documents are reconcilled and make it into the right patient file.
In simplest terms, these newer EHR and PM technologies can enable physicians to transmit an image directly from a laptop, a scanner, email or mobile device, and the recipient can receive the transmittal via encrypted eFax directly into the EHR or Practice Management program. Some applications also allow the recipient to be alerted through text message, email or other means that a document has been sent.
While retaining the advantages of the traditional fax, these software-based programs bring their own benefits to the table. Depending on what business machines are involved, software-based faxing can reduce paper and toner use, avoid problems with busy signals and provide more secure transmittal with less room for human error. There is also the advantage of the sender not having to move to a fax machine to send a communication.
Making the Switch
While fax machines may not disappear from healthcare facilities any time soon, providers like the University of Kansas Hospital and Denver Health Central Fill Pharmacy are capitalizing on the convenience and efficiency of new fax technologies. These healthcare providers are finding they can still safeguard patient information while enjoyng ease of communication.
Photo Credit: Curtis Gregory Perry via Compfight cc
Last Updated on February 11, 2014