The Countdown Begins: When Will Your Health System Say Goodbye to Traditional Faxing?

As the era of traditional faxing draws to a close, health systems must prepare for what comes next.


Authored by Tim Hoskins – VP of solution architecture, Vyne Medical for HIStalk — March 25, 2024

Moving beyond copper wire: America’s communication evolution

For over 145 years, copper wire has been essential in facilitating communication across America, providing seamless nationwide connectivity through the telephone network. However, in 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prompted the modernization of this infrastructure by discontinuing the mandate for local phone companies to maintain copper wire services and lifting price cap requirements for customers. This policy shift led to significant changes in America’s communication networks, forcing the transition of traditional plain old telephone services (POTS) to more advanced systems. Despite this change, some essential services and organizations, including healthcare providers and payers, still use on-premise fax systems. These traditional systems are reliant on the aging and soon-to-be-obsolete copper wire infrastructure.

To continue providing exceptional patient care, hospitals and health systems still using traditional fax, need to revamp operations and replace their outdated systems. Without this essential update, they risk the inability to efficiently exchange crucial patient information, including referrals, prior authorizations, lab results, prescription orders, and more.

Shifting away from outdated technology to reliable infrastructure

In cities nationwide, the transition away from copper wire has already begun, and given the substantial costs associated with upkeeping and repairing copper wires, it is welcomed by many. “The copper infrastructure is old, expensive to repair and maintain, and can’t support high-speed Internet connections,” shared Fraida Fund, a research assistant professor at NYU Tandon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Fiber is technically a much better medium for communications; you can transfer data faster over fiber than over copper.”

During severe storms or unexpected line outages, many hospitals and health systems have already experienced the dilemma of not being able to rely on their system’s traditional phone and fax systems, presenting a significant communication challenge for both providers and patients. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy damaged copper lines across New York City, and instead of repairing the lines, fiber optics were installed in their place.

“We lost dial tone on my fax line, so I couldn’t receive or send any faxes. Imagine my patients waiting for their CAT scans, X-rays, their reports of blood, all different kinds of things,” explained Dr. Ida Messana, a Queens internist specializing in geriatric medicine.

Fighting traditional fax’s hold on healthcare in both rural and urban areas

Despite its high costs and inconsistent reliability, traditional faxing remains prevalent in healthcare systems nationwide.

In fact, in 2023, it was estimated that:

  • 75% of healthcare still depended on fax
  • 47.4% of small hospitals and 42.8% of rural hospitals were most likely to mail or fax medical records
  • On average, a 500-bed hospital lost more than $4 million due to communication deficiencies

“The problem is abandoning customers in rural areas and small towns who have few if any, choices for broadband,” explained Matt Larsen, CEO of Vistabeam. As rural health systems navigate this transition, these organizations must advocate for their staff and patients by proactively seeking out replacement solutions to overcome the unique challenges they may encounter.

How health systems can prepare with cloud fax technology

Cloud fax technology provides a convenient digital faxing solution, removing the need for traditional copper wire transmission within health systems. Beyond resolving the reliance on copper wires, cloud fax brings a host of benefits that can optimize operations and enhance patient care.

When selecting the ideal cloud fax vendor, it’s important to acknowledge that not all vendors are equal. While many provide digital faxing services, the benefits they offer vary greatly. Innovative companies that are eager to collaborate and integrate with an organization’s existing technology can not only address the copper wire dilemma, but also generate time and money savings with a healthcare-centric solution that can provide:

  • Outbound faxing for the EMR system
  • Real-time and encrypted exchange networks
  • Ability to access the system remotely

As communication methods evolve, both rural and urban health system technology must adapt accordingly. With solutions available that enable seamless bidirectional cloud faxing, the reliance on copper wire for essential operations can be eliminated. Additionally, the need for printing and scanning is minimized, empowering teams to efficiently manage large volumes of sensitive and urgent communications.

The power of cloud technology in healthcare

The transformative power of cloud technology in healthcare management is evident in its ability to replace traditional faxing and safeguard patient care from unforeseen disruptions. When one medical center utilizing cloud fax technology experienced an incident in their server room, the patient access team feared they would lose their missed incoming faxes. However, following the repair of their server, the inbound fax orders were immediately accessible, highlighting the reliability of cloud-based systems in maintaining seamless operations despite unexpected interruptions.

“That would have been 607 patient orders lost if they weren’t in the cloud. Everything lives in the cloud. Thank you for the cloud!” shared the team’s Patient Access Manager.

As healthcare communication continues to evolve, it’s imperative to equip teams with the right tools to maintain exceptional patient care. Is your health system prepared for this shift?


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