A rather revealing story about the future of fax in healthcare was published by CNBC earlier this year. It detailed the story of a young doctor who was in his second year of medical school and working at a medical facility in Tennessee. The doctor, who was only 22 at the time (which would make him likely born in 1996), needed to retrieve a patient’s medical records from the smaller community hospital where the patient was formerly receiving treatment.
Seems like an easy enough task, right, especially since nearly every hospital in the nation is equipped with a fax machine. All the doctor needed to do was fill out a standard records request form, get the patient to sign it, then fax it over.
The problem was the young doctor didn’t know how to use a fax machine.
A Growing Issue Among Millennials
The doctor in this story is not alone. Thousands of young men and women are graduating from medical school and ending up in a field where faxing is still the dominant form of document transmission, and for good reason. HIPAA dictates that faxing is a safe and acceptable method of transmitting sensitive patient information. But many millennials have never seen a fax machine, let alone used one.
No one is saying that millennials are any less tech-savvy than older generations. They simply understand the technology of their generation. It’s easy for many millennials to use smartphones and even write code for applications, but they often don’t understand devices they view as ancient, like fax machines. Although patient information has been digitized in the form of electronic medical records (EMR), the method of sending them doesn’t always exist in the digital realm. Those facilities who still use standalone fax machines are running into issues with new generations of employees, even those as educated as medical doctors.
The Problem Isn’t Slow Digitization Efforts
The one thing this CNBC piece missed the mark on was its assertion that healthcare is hurting because it has been slow to digitize completely. Both medical records and fax servers exist in digital formats, and many fax servers even exist in the Cloud. The problem is not that the technology isn’t there, it’s that not all medical facilities are making use of fax server software that can integrate seamlessly with email platforms like Google, Outlook, etc. These types of fax software, like RightFax, are easy for new generations of workers to grasp because they overlap with familiar technology of the times (email, analytics, mobile devices, etc.).
Simply put: hospitals don’t need to stop faxing. They need to change how they fax.