Lorraine Kelleher of Spearline discusses why faxing can still play a key role within the medical sector.
Faxing is one of the most secure communication methods and as such has remained popular in the medical sector.
To the majority of individuals, the humble fax (facsimile) machine is now a distant memory, and for younger generations, it is a memento of years gone by and a technology that they are unlikely to encounter in the future.
However, research shows that fax technology is far from obsolete and in certain sectors and industries, its usage is actually growing.
A fax machine operates by the sender feeding the relevant pages into their machine, which then scans these pages and transmits the information to the recipient’s machine at the other end.
The content is transmitted through the telephone network, in a similar way to how a phone call arrives at its endpoint. Millions of faxes are sent each day by both individuals and businesses alike.
In 2017, IDC conducted a survey of 200 large firms, each with more than 500 employees, 82% of those surveyed stated that they had sent a greater number of faxes in 2017 than they had in the previous year.
Faxing is often seen as one of the most secure methods of communication; this is a key reason for its sustained popularity within the healthcare sector despite rapidly evolving technology and software products coming to market.
In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in the United States. Companies who designed and manufactured fax machines seized the opportunity and enhanced their transmission, reception, and storage systems and capabilities to ensure that the personal records and information of patients were secure.
HIPAA-compliant fax machines limited who could view the received fax and checked that the correct number was dialled prior to sending. It has been a struggle for many digital patient-information systems to offer the same level of security to both the users and their patients.
A disconnect between systems is also a major driver for the continued use of fax in this sector. Hospitals and doctor’s offices use different database systems to house their records and these systems are rarely able to communicate with each other through digital means; fax allows healthcare providers to securely and promptly share patient information.
It is not only more secure, but it is also more affordable and more convenient than alternative software systems. In 2017, 75% of all medical communication in the United States was conducted through fax.
Medical trials have led the way when it comes to the use of fax as part of everyday operations. This is due to the highly confidential nature of the work, along with the need for rapid access to documentation and reports.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that an emphasis should be put on the security of critical information during the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The FDA stated that a secure electronic viewing portal or similar cloud-based repository would be needed for all trials. On March 18th, 2020, they added that during clinical trials, all sites should use fax, email, and phone communication to obtain informed consent and information from their patients who were unable to travel to the site due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The medical and pharmaceutical industry is an example of how mature technology can be incorporated into modern medicine and can play a vital role in the safe and secure transferring of information from one individual to another, or from one location to the next.
Despite years of predictions declaring that the demise of fax was rapidly approaching, it still plays a major part in one of the world’s most vital industries.