In a world gone digital, faxing has faded from nearly every industry, except one in particular: healthcare. According to this article released earlier this year, 75% of communication in medicine is by fax. The Obama Administration was successful at converting hospitals to electronic medical records, but these internal systems created a problem: communication with other hospitals and free-standing offices. Thus, the fax machine lived another day.
Is the life of the fax machine coming to an end soon? Though no legislation has been passed to officially mandate it, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced in a keynote address last year that she wants healthcare providers to be fax-free by 2020. Interoperability has been a big initiative for healthcare providers year after year. With the right technology, there are better solutions to sending and receiving patient information more securely and more efficiently.
You’re probably thinking, “What about email? Can’t medical records just be sent via email?” The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) demands that physicians, hospitals, payers, and labs send patient information through secure platforms. Email alone is not a secure enough platform for sending PHI. Historically, fax machines have been the most secure way to send information, which is why they remain popular. In fact, faxing in healthcare continues to grow year after year. In 2017, faxing grew by 9% according to a survey done by the IDC.
However, faxing does have flaws due to user error, and technology has been developed that could eventually replace the fax machine as we know it.
The actual sending of information through a fax machine is secure. The sender feeds the pages into the machine on their end which scans each page and sends the information to the recipient’s machine which then prints the information. There is the potential, however, of the information ending up in the wrong hands, therefore violating HIPAA. Often, a fax machine is shared in an office setting. If a fax is sent over when the recipient is not standing next to the machine waiting to receive the file, it is possible for another individual to pick it up, for it to be delivered to the wrong department or for it to be lost altogether, which could result in a breach of HIPAA.
Faxing is not the most efficient way of sending information. It is more time-consuming and at risk of human error. If you’ve ever sent a fax, you know that it takes time to gather your files, create a cover sheet, dial the number, and wait for each page to be scanned through. You may have also experienced misdialing a number which can either send the file to the wrong person or cancel the delivery altogether, adding even more time to the file delivery process.
The costs involved with traditional faxing are another disadvantage. Like any machine, there are always costs involved with repairs and replacement. Fax machines cost anywhere from $50-500, plus a monthly charge of about $50 for the dedicated phone line. This doesn’t include the cost of paper and toner which is required to send and receive faxes. Digital solutions such as email have eliminated these ongoing costs and expedited the process of sending information, establishing a much more efficient process.
One of the biggest issues with faxing in healthcare right now are millennials. Many don’t know what a fax machine is let alone how to use one. In an article published by CNBC, a medical student, Amol Utrankar, who was 22 at the time working a shift at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, shared his struggle to obtain medical records for a new patient from a smaller community hospital where a patient was treated previously. He had no prior experience using a fax machine and required the help of a nurse to figure it out. Utankar’s biggest concern with using the fax machine was he had no idea if the fax was received by the right person.
Are millennials the generation to end faxing entirely? Not quite, but they are an influencing factor. Healthcare providers are still reliant on the fax machine because it is “comfortable” and what they are accustomed to using. It appears the biggest reason the fax machine is still prevalent in healthcare is because providers refuse to let it go and learn new ways to exchange patient information. However, the end to this dinosaur technology seems nearer than ever before.
The answer to eliminating fax in your health system? Integration. Integration between EHR systems and other technologies will allow for the continuous flow of healthcare information from system to system so that all patient data is connected and conveniently available when needed. The Vyne Medical team is skilled in developing customized integration between Trace and EHR systems to create a seamless flow of communication that is completely electronic. The result? No paper, no fax machine.
Vyne Medical is a leading expert in connecting disconnected data. As the #1 Certified Health Information Handler (HIH) for the CMS electronic submission of medical documentation (esMD) program, Vyne Medical’s CONNECT gateway gives providers an on-ramp to submit secure electronic documentation to CMS and approved contractors, with tracking to ensure records are received within the specified deadline.
FastAttach is an additional tool offered by Vyne Medical which allows health systems to exchange confidential patient information with physicians, payers, labs, etc. in a secure and efficient manner. It eliminates the costs involved with fax machines and paper, establishes a more efficient process, and is compliant with HIPAA. Using FastAttach®, hospitals can transmit an unlimited number of documents in support of electronic medical claims – leading to faster claims payments, fewer denials and reduced administrative costs.
If the technology exists, why are hospitals slow to adopt? Some hospitals may say it’s a burden to add another piece of technology to their system or change from their current process. Others may say there are no incentives to do so like when hospitals quickly adopted electronic medical records. Health systems would also prefer to hold onto patient records in hopes the patient will be a loyal consumer to their organization.
Earlier this year, Apple® announced its collaboration with select health systems sending medical records to the iPhone®. With medical records in the hands of the patient, hopefully health systems start to see the benefits of being able to securely and efficiently communicate medical information with offices outside of their network on different EMR platforms.
To learn more about how Vyne Medical can help your hospital reduce costs and communicate more securely, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.