Electronic faxing transforms healthcare data delivery
By Scott Hagenus, March 19, 2013
From security to health-record management, the benefits of cloud-based fax technology keep increasing.
The “death of faxing” is a major misperception in the business world today. In fact, according to a recent Opinion Matters survey, 87 percent of respondents in the healthcare field said their business makes use of faxing, and of these, 59 percent said faxing is a central part of their daily workflow process for customer, vendor and interdepartmental communications.
The reality is that faxing remains at the core of business communications and plays a critical role in ensuring confidential information passes from point to point in a secure, compliant and uncorrupted manner. With healthcare regulations such as HIPAA, the HITECH Act and meaningful-use Stage 2, the ability to transfer sensitive data securely is more important than ever before.
While faxing technology helps healthcare practices securely transmit sensitive data, the traditional fax machine can also be a security liability. Faxes that are misplaced or left in unattended machines are easily accessible to unauthorized third parties, leaving patient health information exposed. Not only is this a breach of patient confidentiality, but it can result in compliance fines, law suits and a huge dent in the practice’s integrity. If you don’t think this is a problem, think again. Forty-four percent of healthcare respondents polled by Opinion Matters admit that they have read a paper fax that was intended for someone else.
Fax servers and cloud-based fax solutions address this security risk by eliminating the need for a physical machine. Faxes are sent directly to the recipient’s inbox or sent from an email client, so there is little risk the content will be exposed to unauthorized third parties. Additionally, these fax solutions offer a secure, electronic repository for all of the practice’s faxes – and not a single sheet of paper to worry about or file.
Moving faxing into a fully electronic and IP-based environment ensures that the desired legacy benefits of fax communications, such as permanency, legal admissibility and direct point-to-point transmission, can be retained. At the same time, electronic faxing offers the same advantages of other IP communication forms, such as tighter security, faster transmission, content filtering, direct-to-recipient delivery, audit trailing and activity logging, integration with cloud applications and storage, and reduced environmental impact, since less paper is used.
Better records management through electronic faxing
Using fax servers and cloud-based fax technology, medical practices can receive and store inbound faxes electronically and then automatically distribute the faxes to pre-determined locations. Test results from a reference lab, for example, can be routed to the in-house lab. Alternately, each physician’s nurse in the practice can have a designated fax number allowing the results to be transmitted directly to them. Test results aren’t the only candidates for improvement: Consider the faxes that arrive daily from hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, vendors and other stakeholders. Regardless of the source, with electronic faxing technology, these documents can be quickly and easily obtained, retrieved, viewed and, if applicable, distributed or saved to the appropriate data file when received by the computer.
Keep in mind that inbound faxes are only one side of the equation: Medical practices transmit just as many faxes as they receive. For example, a specialty practice faxes information to referring physicians for each patient. Without a fax server or online faxing technology, the work involved in printing and sending information on each patient can mean generating multiple reports and ensuring that each gets to the right destination. It also requires extra efforts in security vigilance, as each outbound document must be rounded up and then filed or shredded. This is hardly the road to a secure, paperless practice!
Fax servers and online faxing permit reports and other data to be transmitted seamlessly and securely to designees. Most importantly, these fax technologies can be integrated with the practice’s electronic health record systems to better manage the flow of patient data, particularly that which originates from a fax.
Fax servers and cloud-based faxing solutions are quickly replacing the traditional fax machine in healthcare offices. The technology enables practices to drastically reduce the volume of paper handled within their organization, which, in turn, improves their environmental footprint, minimizes costs, and, perhaps most importantly, creates a much more secure environment to manage confidential patient information. And in the era of compliance regulations and EHR systems, this is a win-win for all involved.
About the author
Scott Hagenus is product marketing manager, GFI Software. To learn more, go to www.gfi.com.
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