Who still uses faxes? The medical industry does.



Who still uses faxes? The medical industry does. Here is a picture from just today: 27 faxes received and about 20 sent, and that is only counting after noon. Some days are worse, with up to 40 faxes to handle in our small medical practice.


On the left are the 27 faxes received: We use e-faxing, so they arrive as pdfs. On the right are the faxes sent: They go out looking like emails but are converted to faxes. It’s a great faxing system, since we never create paper, but the point here is this: The medical industry is buried in faxes.

Why not change to more modern methods, like, say an email? Or a Web-based graphical interface, like Facebook, Orbitz, Google, and most other websites? Actually I shouldn’t say that too fast: Medical websites try to be too HIPAA, and require very complex passwords (e.g., a number, a capital, and multiple symbols) that must be changed every month. Lastpass to the rescue. I frequently get faxes of patients I don’t know, so faxes aren’t the HIPAA solution either. Even if we don’t go to a Web-based interface, most businesses are moving towards e-faxing, so we are all really just looking at computer screens that have images of paper, but no one is printing the paper. Why not just change to Web-based solutions?

Still, 27 faxes after noon? What are these? Mostly silly paperwork that requires a physician signature, but really a robot could sign. For example, adult daycares or home care require me to write the patient’s meds on a paper, once a year. This is not so they can give the meds to the patient, but only so a third party can decide, based on the number of meds, whether the patient needs daycare/homecare services.

Other faxes here are from homecare companies that require me to sign a paper every time the patient breathes. All of these faxes are uncompensated time; I can read and respond to about 20 faxes in an hour, so faxwork takes 1 to 2 hours a day. If other Web-based methods were designed, this time would be cut in half.

Any doctor can tell you they are buried in faxes. The worst part is that faxes don’t go through often, or they get dropped or lost. This is a technology that should have disappeared along with beepers.

Oh wait, medicine is the only field that still uses beepers.

P.J. Parmar is a family doctor at Ardas Family Medicine and blogs at P.J.! Parmar.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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