By Michael Morgan, CEO, Updox.
Very few businesses today use fax machines, yet more than 9 billion faxes are still sent every year in healthcare, according to DirectTrust. Eighty percent of all serious medical mistakes result from poor communication, which includes fax. Simply put, every industry decreased or eliminated its reliance on the fax machine over the past decade – except healthcare. Beyond fax, healthcare’s dependence on manual communications is costly, inefficient and brings serious security risks.
According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, there is no place left for the antiquated fax machine. In 2018, she issued a bold vision to transform patient care by improving communication and data exchange. She challenged the industry to make doctors’ offices “a fax-free zone” by 2020.
Why not push healthcare to go beyond that? Let’s look at all the ways inefficiencies and “doing things the way they’ve always been done” are holding healthcare back with manual processes, repetitive tasks and increasing frustration.
To replace fax, we must look at why it’s still being used. Fax is easy. Fax numbers are already programmed and shared. Faxes (usually) go directly to the recipient. But, the costs associated with faxing keep growing. The process isn’t efficient and it’s not at all secure in today’s HIPAA-compliant environment.
Yet, reports say nearly 90% of hospitals still rely on fax. Change is a challenge. Fax machines must become a thing of the past in order to bring healthcare fully into the 21st century. As those machines are eliminated, healthcare providers still need a way to exchange information and transfer documents. The need to exchange documents isn’t going to change but the way that is done – to ensure efficiency and security – has to change.
Are providers of all sizes ready for the end of an era? Understanding the true value and efficiency of eliminating fax is critical, but it has to be replaced with a solution that actually makes it easier.
Benefits Beyond Cost Savings
While physicians and staff are familiar and comfortable with using traditional faxing, this old school approach is an inefficient and costly part of both independent practices and health systems alike. Redundant work processes, like inputting information from faxes into electronic health record (EHR) systems, severely hampers productivity and profitability.
On average, providers spend upwards of 55 hours per month manually faxing based on a customer engagement survey by Updox. And for every 5,000 fax pages sent or received, a practice spends about $155 in supplies, including paper, toner, phone lines and shredding costs.
Plus, there are patient privacy and security concerns when using faxes. In recent years, researchers have discovered security flaws that can leave entire networks vulnerable from malicious faxes. Manual errors, too, result in protected patient information getting sent to the wrong number, which could lead to HIPAA violations and fines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.