Healthcare Providers Need To Stop Using The “F” Word”
Why can’t healthcare providers stop using the Fax as the primary communication tool across the continuum of care and between settings? Ever stop and think how many people in your healthcare organization regularly send or receive Faxes?
Faxing is expensive, risks patient safety and security, and makes it difficult for patients, physicians, and caregivers to do business with one another. But Faxing is in widespread use.
“F” Bombs Everywhere
According to Vox, nearly 75 percent of all medical communications are via Fax. The case for using the Fax is compelling when considering:
• Most medical records are digitized, but there are few easy and secure electronic ways to share records across differing electronic systems.
• Faxes are considered safe and secure under today’s privacy laws. HIPAA, the federal regulations that govern how patient health records are shared, specifically state that Fax machines or mail are acceptable methods for doctors to transmit medical records. Therefore, Fax senders view this as a significant limitation of their risk.
• There is no overwhelming hard dollar business case for incurring the upfront costs and business change associated with transitioning away from Fax.
• David Blumenthal, President Obama’s National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology 2009-2011 said, “When you want competing entities to share information, you have to realize that they’re sharing things that could help their competitors.” These types of entities span across the provider spectrum and include physician practices. Faxing limits the ability for a perceived competitor to easily capture your organization’s data.
• Doximity, which claims 70% of US doctors as verified members, masks the harmful nature of Fax by making it easy for clinicians to send and receive Faxes without having to use a Fax machine.
• The push for electronic medical record system implementations and upgrades is consuming available hospital system IT resources leaving little capacity to address valuable initiatives like eliminating dependency on Faxing.
• The network effect is a barrier. The shortage of participants in the network (those capable of exchanging information electronically) limits its value. It is only after some success that the network effect may spur more rapid adoption. To make this successful, electronic communications between organizations must garner a level of adoption that delivers enough value to the healthcare community.
Stop the “F” Bombs
So, why change? The reasons are numerous.
• Faxing is costly. It is manually intensive. Think about the time and effort it takes to load and send a Fax as well as the work required to transcribe essential information from a received Fax into a computer system. When considering so much medical communication is via Fax, the costs quickly add up.
• Faxing is error-prone. Think blank, blurred, or missing pages; In most industries, this becomes a product quality or cost concern. In healthcare, it is all about patient safety. Information often arrives via Fax in piecemeal fashion, which requires further requests (and Faxes).
• Faxing is not secure. Not only do Fax numbers change, but machines also go unattended. Check Point Software Technologies has recently proven that Fax machines can give attackers access to your entire network.
• Faxing is not always timely. There may be a lag from the time an organization receives a Fax and then can get it to the recipient or get the data entered into the system of record. Besides, there are lags when transmission or printing problems arise. Duplicate testing and delayed treatments are often the results of Fax delays.
• Most patient data are of limited proprietary or competitive value. It is merely information that must be communicated to deliver patient care.
• Interoperability is not just for interstitial communications. With mergers, acquisitions, facility and service line expansions Electronic Health Records Systems (EHRs) can’t keep up with the necessary interoperability. During the catch-up time (often measured in years), Faxing cannot provide effective or even sufficient interoperability.
How to Stop the “F” Bombs: Think Big, Start Small and Scale Fast
You now understand that Faxing is expensive, risks patient safety and security, and makes it difficult for patients, physicians, and caregivers to do business with one another. To change, you need a vision and step-by-step plan.
1. Start simple: Focus on reduction, not the elimination of all Faxes. Pick a well-contained, point-to-point use case with a key partner.
2. Realize value: Take the use case through to implementation. Assess value and determine changes required for that use case, apply the changes, and expand the use case to all partners. Next, begin to focus on the next use case applying lessons learned.
3. Expand reach: Repeat the process, eliminating larger and larger pieces of the current Fax environment.
If you are primarily a receiver of Faxes and can’t convince senders to stop using Faxes, then find a way to convert Faxes to data at your end.
People, Process, and Technology
From the outset, consider the three critical dimensions of change when developing and executing the roadmap. While it may be easy to jump to a technical solution or tool, a tool by itself cannot solve the Faxing problem because:
• Variants on EHRs present complex challenges
• Process changes will happen
• Organizational change management create barriers to do something new
• Political (data ownership and control) objections exist
If necessary, find a service partner focused on operationalizing technology solutions that provide real value!
Would you like to talk to RedMane about it? Email: Healthcare@redmane.com
RedMane provides software solutions and systems integration services that address complex, real-world challenges in human services, healthcare, and the commercial sector. And we have significant experience helping all types of provider organizations optimize operations. We are a problem-solving company. Technology is just one of our tools.