Modern fax solutions have evolved to send via software and internet connections. Using the Fax over IP (FoIP) protocol, these systems are literally fax without the machine—a provider or insurer can send to and from a multifunction device, computer, tablet or mobile phone. They’re more reliable, more compliant, better at automatic recordkeeping and cheaper than traditional fax machines.
But why are more health care organizations faxing in the era of electronic records?
EHRs Won’t Talk to Each Other
Electronic health record (EHR) systems have revolutionized how providers store, access and edit medical records, but software providers have taken a “walled garden” approach in which solutions won’t communicate directly with their competitors’ systems. That means an intermediary is required.
In Health Care, Compliance Is Non-Negotiable
Laws like HIPAA and GDPR have made regulatory compliance the bedrock of health care communications. Organizations that have breaches (from the outside or inside, intentional or accidental) suffer serious financial damage through severe fines, lost reputation and lost business.
Communications containing protected health information must be secured. The only question is, what’s the best way to do so?
The Power of Universality
Just like the telephone, fax still maintains a “killer app” that other secure information communications mediums have yet to touch: universality. As long as someone has a phone number and a receiving system (software or machine), you can fax them something.
Email and the Price of Security
The same cannot be true of most of the other options on the market. From an “anyone-can-receive-it” perspective, the closest alternative we have to fax is email, which is inherently insecure. That means you have to bolt on an extra layer of complex software and functionality to make email (or something like it) safe and HIPAA/GDPR-compliant. The more you have to add to the system, the less likely it is the receiver will be able to access the message.
Most file-sharing services are either insecure or require both sides of the conversation to have the same software, accounts and service. This may be fine if your organization is communicating with a business you work with on a daily basis. However, when you’re trying to send someone’s medical records to an independent pharmacy, new provider or small town where they need emergency care, aligning software solutions is a hassle no one needs.
Fax Is Secure and Compliant
The fax’s peer-to-peer nature and transmission over phone networks makes it secure and difficult to intercept in a way that complies with privacy-law requirements. As long as you don’t have to deal with physical fax machines, transmitting documents in full compliance doesn’t get much easier.
MFP Connectors and Apps Enable Digital Transformation
Leading fax-server software developers recognize that the MFP is the on-ramp to enabling digital transformation. Whether it’s fax server technology on premises or fax as a service in the cloud, MFP providers can now eliminate the analog fax cards. Instead, they can utilize fax-server connectors or apps depending on the manufacturer’s development relationship with the fax-server providers. These connectors and apps allow faxes to travel via FoIP rather than Plain Old Telephone Switch (POTS) lines. This digital transformation merges the analog world of faxing to the digital world of document workflows.
When selling MFPs with fax apps, it’s important to ask your providers if their connectors use HTTPS (secure & encrypted delivery). Many use SMTP (email store and forward), which may pose increased risk of security breaches and non-compliance to regulations, as digital faxes are delivered to the fax server or cloud service as an email.
An Old Technology and a Pragmatic Solution to Today’s Challenges
Fax will eventually be replaced, but a proper alternative will need to be as secure, compliant with regulations and ubiquitous on a global scale.
In the meantime, fax is an essential tool in the health care provider’s communication portfolio. Even if an organization has been limping along with inadequate machines, there are modern alternatives available on the market, such as FoIP solutions, that can deliver on the medium’s promise.