Description of a Fax Server in a Doctor’s Office

Today I got an email from a doctor asking the following question “How do I implement a fax server in my office? I have a server and 7 workstations. I have a fax line and a fax machine.” After typing a long reply I decided that information about setting up a fax server in a Doctor’s Office might be useful to all EMR and HIPAA readers. The following is my email reply:

I think you might be misunderstanding a fax server a little. A fax server is a special type of fax machine that usually is hooked up to your server. Most regular fax machines can’t be used as a fax server. You can read more about fax servers on wikipedia.

There are a number of different ways to set it up, but most people connect the fax line to the fax server, and the fax server to the server. Then, ideally you use active directory to share the fax server with in your case the 7 workstations in your office. You can also do this manually if you don’t use active directory in your office.

In order to get the faxes off of the fax server, I personally set up a folder on the server where all the faxes arrive. I then shared the folder on the server with all the workstations I want to access the received faxes. Here again I did this with active directory, but you can also do it manually too.

It’s also important to select the fax software you want to use with your Fax Server. Windows 2003 Server comes with good enough software for most people or you can find a ton of different fax softwares out there that are in the $50-100 range. I personally just use the Windows 2003 fax server software. It keeps a log of all incoming faxes and even all of the faxes sent. With Windows 2003 Small Business Server, it’s really easy to setup the fax server software. I imagine it’s not that difficult with any Windows 2003 server, but it might take a little looking to find where to configure it.

I also have seen that not all fax servers are the same. I wish that I was more of an expert, but I’ve just taken the hit or miss approach. One that I purchased was a little troublesome and the other one has worked really smoothly. I found a list of compatible fax devices on the Microsoft website at one point, but for some reason I didn’t follow it. It might have been because of price or it was outdated. I don’t remember exactly why.

I also recommend keeping your regular fax machine around. Ideally you’d have it set up on a separate phone line so that you have a back up fax machine if your fax server fails, has problems or something else crazy. Always nice to have a little redundancy for the inevitable problems with technology.

Best of luck getting it set up. It really is a HUGE benefit to a doctor’s office. Once it’s set up, then all you’ll ever need to really do is learn to clear out faxes that failed to be sent (ie. fax number is incorrect) and to restart the fax server occasionally.

Let me know if you have any questions.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • The problem with typing up records is data security and transmission. The purpose of HIPAA was to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system through the development of established health data standards and requirements for the transmission and storage of electronic health information. Currently, however, a select few EMR and medical transcription services comply with these standards. We need to create a licencing mechanism to ensure that companies are indeed HIPAA compliant, similar to how manufacturers get ISO-9001 certified. Otherwise, the act just turns into a marketing tag line for companies.

  • Hi John,

    was wondering if an obvious case for sending secure messages from provider to provider is via sending fax’ed images even if direct is not used. I guess if direct is used, it would encrypt the transmission but it seems that with a fax, it is just as good? Also, how do we deal with MU2 if data submitted is fax server? I know mu2 is all about ehr, but I wonder if there is a way to have phi send by direct embedded in a certified ehr that contains fax images? thanks, Lou

  • Lou,
    I think direct is a great replacement for fax in many cases. It can send a little more data than a fax, because it can send metadata with the document as well. So, it is a better solution than fax once we get all the endpoints connected. The biggest advantage of fax is that everyone has one and they publish their fax info.

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