The following is a guest article by Doug Clayton from WestFax.
The origin of the modern fax machine dates back to the 1960’s. From that analog origin to enterprise-scale cloud fax, we have seen the evolution of fax from simple point to point document exchange to something extremely powerful and capable.
Some pundits see fax as standing in the way of forward progress, but the truth is that HIPAA secure fax is evolving and already providing interoperability and automation capabilities now.
For healthcare organizations, one of the biggest obstacles in the interoperability race has been the industry’s lack of clear data standards. While these new standards evolve, fax is the workhorse doing the heavily lifting. With the recent release of FHIR v4 we now have a standard that is normative as all future versions of FHIR must be backward compatible with V4. While some herald it as the golden child of Interoperability, it still faces challenges with adoption and issues with two way communications among stakeholders.
Many EHRs only allow read-only access and even if they do enable bi-directional information exchange, many health providers are hesitant to allow outside data into their systems without validation. They have modern tool sets but their data sharing practices are still rooted in the past. In time this will change but FHIR can’t solve the non-technical behavioral issues.
Transitioning from analog to digital
Digital cloud fax technology is inexpensive, faster, and more secure than ever. The era of expensive racks of modems in a server room have passed. HIPAA secure cloud fax is the new norm. Migration to cloud fax is relatively painless and fast, as we have seen a large number of healthcare providers move from analog fax to the cloud due to the COVID-19 crisis. They can’t get into the office to get their faxes and we can immediately transition them into cloud fax. The pandemic has effectively killed the physical fax machine which is a good thing for modernization.
The next evolution of Fax
The advent of OCR / barcode / automation technology has changed everything. A fax is no longer a dead document that has to be picked up in the fax bin. It can be digitally downloaded, converted to structured data (xml/json), processed, and automated without any manual intervention. Modern fax APIs allow healthcare organizations to send, receive and process fax data without needing to print anything.
An entire industry of document automation and document management vendors have embraced cloud fax and it’s capabilities. The ubiquitous presence of fax, with regards to healthcare, has given it an advantage over the developing standards and frameworks. Interoperability is being realized now while organizations struggle to retool and implement FHIR.
Right now fax is here, doing the job every day, and it is evolving with each challenge. HIPAA compliant fax is not fading out to some new shinier thing. It is the reliable engine we know well, and it just works. As technology companies add value and capabilities, the goal of 100% interoperability can be realized today.
About Doug Clayton
Doug works as a Senior Analyst for WestFax, Inc, a Colorado based cloud fax provider specializing in HIPAA secure fax. Doug started his long career helping the DoD convert legacy logistics software from mainframes to modern stacks. He also worked on currency conversion systems at the World Bank in Washington DC and consulted for many leading non-profits based in the DC area. At WestFax he wears many hats ranging from devops, sales, engineering to developer relations. You can find Doug on LinkedIn.
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