By Jeff Solis, senior product marketing manager, eFax Corporate.
The survival of highly regulated industries such as healthcare depend on secure information exchange.
Healthcare organizations, or “covered entities,” as they’re known, exchange large volumes of sensitive data daily: billing and medical records, prescriptions and refill requests, lab requisitions, clinical field trial results, patient clinical data, plus insurance claims, denials, appeals, and invoices.
Traditional analog fax, relic that it is, still transmits over the public telephone network, and remains difficult, if not impossible to intercept. For this reason, it is regarded as a more secure form of communication than email. In fact, a report on the health industry’s use of fax machines showed 75 percent of medical communication in the United States takes place via fax. Recent high-profile incidents of massive cyber-attacks exposing the personal details of millions of customers and patients reinforce the view that email remains a highly vulnerable means of business communication.
However, fax remains a viable means of exchanging protected healthcare information (PHI) for other reasons too. A recent IDC study noted that 25% of large businesses surveyed prefer fax over email because they believe it reduces their risk of violating data privacy regulations. An additional 28% prefer fax because it makes document tracking easier and sends alerts as to the success or failure of a transmission.
Then there’s the regulatory factor. Federal regulators who enforce healthcare data-privacy rules have exempted fax (and phone calls) from certain aspects of the HIPAA Security Rules. This has led to the widespread perception that fax is more compliant than other types of electronic communication for the transmission of PHI.
So fax persists. But the world has changed, and so have old notions about fax reliability. In fact, the issue has taken on greater importance with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma challenging software developers to make physicians’ offices fax-free by 2020.
The Trouble with Legacy Fax
If you still use a fax machine, multifunction printer, or rely upon on-premises fax servers to transmit your faxes, then you support legacy fax.
This is a huge problem! Why? Because legacy fax can fail in ways that threaten an organization’s data security, and if in today’s data-driven world covered entities can’t keep the PHI of patients free from unauthorized exposure, they’d better, well, cover their entities as HIPAA violations are expensive and can torpedo your reputation, even your livelihood.