Why Physicians Still Fax – And Why It Matters

When it comes to technology, physicians get a bad rap. They’re painted as Luddites, old-fashioned and resistant to change, where IT is concerned. Many people are shocked when they learn that physicians not only still use fax machines, but in fact, rely on them to send and receive patient information. How is it possible that such antiquated technology is still so pervasive across the healthcare system? The answer may be much more rational than you’d expect – and it speaks volumes of the need for #clinicalfirst solutions.

Everyone agrees – the fax machine is far from ideal. It takes minutes to send documents instead of the instantaneous sending of most digital technology; received documents are hard to read; and every so often, the fax literally fails to deliver. But for healthcare providers, fax is preferred over more digitally advanced tools. Everything comes through the fax machine, and it’s already a part of their day-to-day operations.

For most practices, there are only two ways to get information inside their clinic: through fax or mail. These practices assign a dedicated person to monitor incoming faxes, mail and other physical documents that are essential for proper patient care. All it takes is a quick glance at the fax machine to know when new information is received in the practice or the mailman walks into the office to deliver the mail.

When you add an electronic Inbox to the mix, it becomes an additional source of information that the practice has to assign a staff member to monitor. Most practices are already overwhelmed with the ever-changing requirements and increased administrative burden — they simply can’t afford to take on additional work when it’s not absolutely required.

Further complicating the solution is that it’s not just one more information source to take on. Every organization creates their own portals to distribute clinical information to others. This means that the practice now has to monitor online portals for all other practices, hospitals, and insurance companies to get the same data that they would have received through fax.

The solution to moving healthcare providers away from the ever-present fax machine is simple: a digital universal inbox where all documents, including faxes, are consolidated and the practice only has one place again where information enters the practice.

At Elation, we’ve created a document management system that allows practices to use their existing office fax number and still send and receive patient information through the Clinical First EHR. Elation Health provides one universal place to view all information coming into the practice. Faxes appear alongside lab results, medication history and all other relevant patient information, creating a digital home for valuable paper documents and eliminating extra steps.

From an outsider’s perspective, the prevalence of fax machines in modern medicine is mind-boggling. But once you understand the inner workings of a physician practice, as well as the shortcomings of digital-age systems, it’s clear why providers don’t want to let go. To eliminate healthcare’s reliance on fax, we must embrace the importance and universality of fax and incorporate it into any digital business flow. By respecting providers’ current processes, we make the change easier and help providers to adopt new technology.

How does Elation Health help small practices transition from paper to digital records? Check out these testimonials from our doctors.