This week CMS Administrator Seema Verma promoted new goals the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has for promoting interoperability. At ONC's Interoperability Forum, in Washington, D.C., Verma announced that the CMS was working to improve the methods of communication which health information is communicated. The big takeaway was calling for doctors' offices to be fax free zones within the next two years.
Verma wants digital health information to replace fax machines, which are currently used in most physician offices to send patient health information. A 2017 study found that faxes accounted for 75% of all medical communication. One reporter found out doctors would input medical information into a computer, print it, and fax it to another office. The recipient would then upload the printout of an electronic record.
So why are fax machines still around?
Critics to Verma's statements, say that faxes are a necessary evil in medical offices. Faxes can send a patient's health information and it's not a violation of HIPAA. Also, fax machines are capable of communicating with each other without the use of additional software. It's true, no matter what brand of fax machine someone uses, they are still capable of transmitting the information. Some would even argue that the use of fax machines creates a paper trail.
However the problems do outweigh the benefits. PHI data stored within a secure environment should have a data backup. Whereas, printed data can be lost, or misfiled. The transmission of patient data can also be delayed due to a busy line or a paper jam.
One of the other reasons why medical offices have fax machine is the perception that they are more secure. Recent developments have shown this to be far from the truth. A presentation, held at the security conference DEF CON, showed that malicious hackers are capable of running code capable of letting them take over the fax machine. Worse yet, if that machine is connected to the network, a hacker would be able to have access to the network and that can put a healthcare facility in jeopardy.
Ax the Fax
A lot of Verma's reasoning had to do with putting health information in the hands of patients. She calls for healthcare facilities to be able to PHI within a secure environment, and to promote interoperability.
There are faster, and more effective methods, of transmitting patient data. However, doctors are reluctant to adopt these methods due to the fact they aren't secure, or that systems have difficulty communicating with each other. If anything, EHRs can contribute to burnout.
Melodon Health Technologies is dedicated to helping healthcare facilities developing custom interoperability solutions to improve their ability to communicate, enable the seamless integration, and improve the operation of applications among systems and organizations
Our fast, free, and secure evaluation can help your healthcare facility get started, begin to improve, and ultimately get rid of your fax machine.