Today I got an email asking about whether someone should use a hosted HIPAA compliant fax application or get their own fax server. Here’s the full email (with names removed):
I’m setting up a web based application for administrative work at doctors offices. I want to be able to allow these offices to purchase an electronic fax service that is HIPAA compliant and integrated with my application from me. I have tried to research this and have only gotten more confused. What should I do?
* Should I use one of these internet fax providers through a partnership program where I can brand the product to my own? Are they HIPAA compliant? and how come some of them like smartfax.com charges only $12.95 for unlimited faxing, and someone like sfaxme.com who claims to be HIPAA compliant charges $99.00 for 1000 pages.
* Or should I use some sort of fax server.
Any help would be highly appreciated.
Some very good questions. I will admit that I’m definitely not an expert on the hosted HIPAA compliant fax server market. I’d love for people to correct anything I’ve said which is wrong. Here’s what I wrote in response to the email:
I can understand your confusion. There are a lot of different options out there. I personally don’t know much about the fax service providers. I knew there were some out there, but I’ve never personally used one myself. I’m not sure I ever would use one at least for HIPAA related information. You’re probably ok if you have a business associates agreement, but here again I’m not a lawyer and laws may depend on which state you’re in.
As far as the pricing difference, I’m sure there are a number of factors, but it makes a lot of sense that a HIPAA compliant fax service would be more expensive than a non-HIPAA compliant service. Not necessarily because the technology is all that different, but because they “should” implement more safeguards to protect your data in order to be HIPAA compliant. Not to mention if a company can claim HIPAA compliant faxes, then they’ll probably charge more just because they can.
I personally prefer the fax server route. They are inexpensive (like $50 or less) and everything is stored in house. If you have a Windows Server 2003 server in your office, then the fax application to keep logs of all your faxes is also free. If you don’t have a server like that, then it will be a little more difficult but a good fax program only costs around $50-100 last I checked.
One thing you should know about a fax server (and probably the fax providers) is that you’ll need to have some sort of scanner to be able to scan things in order to fax them. Unless of course you’re planning to only fax things that are already electronic. Basically a fax server can fax anything you can print. If you can print it, you can fax it with a fax server.
Anything else that I left out about fax servers vs. hosted fax applications that people in healthcare should know?