From it’s analog origins in the sixties to the infinitely scalable Digital Cloud Fax platforms today that can send/receive/process and manage millions of faxes; fax has never been as robust and powerful. The future of Fax and its role in healthcare has been a topic of much discussion but with the vision of an all digital healthcare system still evolving, fax is seeing it’s architecture evolve to meet the challenges of complete interoperability.
It’s not about paper waste anymore.
The fax industry wants you to throw away recycle your fax machines and go digital. The fax industry gains nothing from you using paper. Paper fax as well as paper medical records will always be around. The advantages of fax (contractually binding, receipt of transmission, HIPAA compliance, etc…) are the same if the fax is paper or digital. The paperless fax has been realized. The old fax argument about paper waste is a strawman argument and cheapens the discourse about the transformation needed in healthcare document management. Old documents are being digitized and faxes are already all digital. The debate is no longer about paper.
Fax offers 100% Interoperability today.
Digital faxing can be integrated from start to finish in the healthcare document lifecycle. From medical records in an EMR system being digitally faxed to another office (that utilize cloud fax), where those records are put through powerful OCR engines, routed and converted to Structured Data which can then be consumed with the new medical interoperability standards such as FHIR, HL7 and Direct. What is structured data? Basically it’s data that has a format. A table of data in Excel is structured data. FHIR and HL7 use JSON format. End the end it’s basically text that is formatted to be easily readable and processable by machines efficiently.
Interoperability is a big buzzword in healthcare and it may seem straightforward. The path to it is less clear. Going all digital will require a massive effort by all parties involved. Including fax. We have seen the evolution of email and the evolution of how data is managed in the cloud. There is no reason to believe that fax will not evolve as well. Everything in the cloud is a great idea but it’s just an idea. The reality is somewhere in the middle. We are getting there but a vast majority of medical records are paper, and document conversion is a slow ongoing process. Fax will assist in this effort with digital cloud faxing.
Working toward the same goals
In conclusion, the future is bright with regards to digitizing healthcare records. There will come a day when all health records are digital but that future is not going to materialize if we don’t take a measured and thoughtful approach to the process. Going from paper to digital is just the first step, not the finale goal. Fax has never been more capable and powerful than it is today. Healthcare and organizations working to modernize healthcare will be well served to harness that power and avoid the knee-jerk “Axe the Fax” memes which malign a technology that has been a stalwart partner for decades.