Why Doctors Surgeries Fax Instead Of Email

Why Doctors Surgeries Fax Instead Of Email

Alexis Basilla

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While a fax machine may be outdated technology in comparison to a smartphone, for example, the prevalence of faxing in the workplace demonstrates the ongoing importance of this humble method of communication.  

One would have thought that with the advent of email, businesses would cease using fax, opting instead for more cost efficient methods of communicating.

But it simply isn’t as cut and dry as all that. 

From regulation issues to limitations in technology to financial disincentives, there are many reasons why businesses prefer to fax, and doctors surgeries are a prime example of why fax is preferred over email.


Table of Contents

Why fax instead of email?

You see, up and down the US, doctors surgeries, pharmacies, chemists and other healthcare providers routinely place medical records in their fax machine tray, dial in the recipient’s number, cross their fingers the whole document will arrive in one piece (not truncated) and that there isn’t a paper jam. 

Why go to all this trouble when they could scan the medical record or prescription and email it to where it needs to go? 

There are a few reasons why doctors surgeries fax instead of email:

1. Stick with what they know

Well, one of the reasons is that a large number of older medical workers, doctors, consultants, receptionists, are comfortable using the old technology. It’s what they’ve always used to transfer medical records or to send prescriptions, for example. They’ve always faxed, so why fix something if it isn’t broken?

2. Privacy and security

Fax is seen as a reliable and secure means of sending and receiving patients’ medical charts and EKGs from hospitals to the doctor’s surgery; to communicate with insurance companies; to send urgent prescriptions through to pharmacies; to transfer medical records between doctors’ surgeries. 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires medical professionals to ensure a level of security when handling and transferring patients’ sensitive medical information, to make sure it can’t be compromised or viewed by unauthorized personnel. 

HIPAA has decreed fax to be a secure method of sending and receiving such sensitive data, which is why it’s the preferred transference method.

Health care providers have a responsibility of ensuring the safeguarding of patient’s private information when sharing medical records, data, documents or prescriptions. 

And because fax is considered an acceptable method of sending medical results, as well as test results, medical instructions and treatments, it’s the go-to communication choice, where email is not.

3. Email is not secure

Why not email? Because it is considered an insecure means of communicating. Email is viewed as too susceptible to hacking. And when you’re tasked with handling such sensitive information as a patient’s personal medical records, faxing is the more secure option. 

This might seem like the end of the story, but actually, there’s the small issue of fax machines being outlawed in the UK, as well as the Obama administration’s push to digitize the US’s medical records to take into consideration. 

So if the medical profession can’t use the traditional fax machine and all medical records are going online, what secure method can doctors surgeries use to ensure security when sharing medical records?

Online faxing.

The problem with traditional fax machines

As we mentioned above, medical professionals around the world rely on fax to transfer medical records and all the documents and data contained therein. 

There is no better platform for transmission – fax still remains the best, and most legally binding way to send a document instantly, as other methods of transmission, such as email, aren’t usually admissible in the eyes of the law.

When it comes to getting a legally binding signature, or signing off important medical documents, or getting a prescription filled quickly, or transferring medical records, fax is the one stop immediate solution.  

But the problem with the old fashioned fax machine is that they simply aren’t equipped to handle the demands of the modern workplace. More specifically, when faxing is as critical as it is in healthcare, you need to use a fax service that is reliable, secure and more importantly, HIPAA compliant. 

And traditional fax machines aren’t up to scratch.

  • They aren’t private. 
  • They don’t guarantee the security of confidential patient information. 
  • They don’t have the requisite security protocols nor do they have end to end encryption. 
  • They present a weakness in your IT system, offering hackers a way into your network. 
  • They also result in files going missing or being stolen or falling into the wrong hands.
  • And when a fax sits in the tray until someone picks it up, any number of unauthorized personnel can view it.

So what can medical professionals do? How can healthcare professionals continue to fax when the fax machine as we know it is resigned to the scrap heap?

We’ll say it again – online faxing. 

Advantages of online faxing

The advantages of online faxing over outdated fax machines are innumerable. A few contenders include:

  • With cloud-based fax you can send documents from anywhere, to anywhere. 
  • It’s HIPAA compliant. 
  • Its high grade SSL, end to end encryption ensures no one other than the sender or the receiver has access to the faxed documents.
  • It’s paperless, saving you money and the environment. 
  • All you need are a mobile device with a camera and you can fax and go.
  • It allows you to fax even when WFH.
  •  It has electronic signature, negating the need for a wet ink signature.

Can your email offer all that? 

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