PM Hack # 15 – Bring Your Fax into the 21st Century
Did you know that in some form the facsimile, or fax, has been around for 175 years? It’s true. But it’s also true that the time has arrived for document faxing to be updated in order to catch up with electronic medical records.
Although faxing in 1842 wasn’t in the form that the modern practice is accustomed to, the invention actually predates Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone debut by 33 years with line-by-line transmission accomplished through telegraph wires. Newspapers used faxed photos for decades before the fax machine as a general business tool became popular in the 1970s. The military was also an early proponent.
Despite numerous, ongoing predictions of the death of the fax machine since the advent of the EHR, practices still rely on them hour by hour. Updated statistics on fax machine use in healthcare are difficult to come by, but a survey of the home health industry demonstrates the enduring popularity of faxes as a communication tool: Their use in home health actually rose from 74% in 2014 to 92% in 2017, according to an industry survey. However, just 27% of agencies expect to be using paper or mailed documents in three years.
A Better Way
Although still a mainstay for secure document transmission for almost all medical practices today, the receiving of faxes can also pose a potentially serious patient-record-connection issue if the faxed document were to get attached to the wrong patient record. In every practice document management for incoming faxes is a critical medical issue.
Although trusted and beloved, the physical fax machine can’t stay around longer than its usefulness. The advent of eFax technology, used in conjunction with medical office software can do more than merely accept and send scans of documents. An integrated internal eFax can track incoming documents, routing them to the appropriate patient file or flag them for further scrutiny.
Think about the advantages: no more paper faxes that someone has to monitor, collate, staple, route, file, or notify. No more toner or service calls. No more paper files that have to be dealt with. No more standing around the machine redialing a busy number—or worse, misdialing a number and creating a potential HIPAA violation.
Modern technology allows eFaxes to be sent from a scanner, laptop, email, or mobile device to an EHR or practice management system using HIPAA compliant security protocols. Alerts can be set up so the recipient is notified by text or email that an eFax has arrived.
Just as line-by-line transmission through telegraph lines gave way to phone lines and the ubiquitous fax machine, the technology is changing again, integrating eFax in new and useful ways.
- BBC Future, February 25, 2015, “Why the fax machine isn’t quite dead yet,” by Chris Baraniuk, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150224-why-the-fax-machine-wont-die
- McKesson Homecare Talk, June 6, 2017, “White Paper Details Challenges Facing Home Care Executives,” by Amy Shellhart, http://www.mckessonhomecaretalk.com/home-health-news/white-paper-details-challenges-facing-home-care-executives/