The Royal College of Surgeons of England balked at the 8,000+ fax machines used by the National Health Service for clinical communication and coordination. The surgeons pointed to advancements in artificial intelligence, robotic surgery and other digital technologies while communication within the health system relied on the fax.
“Alongside all of this innovation, NHS hospital trusts remain stubbornly attached to using archaic fax machines for a significant proportion of their communications. This is ludicrous,” said Richard Kerr, RCS council member and chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery (RCS, 2018).
Enter #AxtheFax, or #AxeTheFax for those preferring the alternate spelling. Either way, it’s a sentiment voiced worldwide to eliminate antiquated fax machines and bring clinical communication and coordination into the digital age (Kirby, 2020). A recent State of Healthcare Communications report estimates that 90% of United States health care organizations still rely on fax machines, with another 39% still using pagers (Davis, 2019), when communicating HIPAA-protected and other information.
The U.S. entered the forget-the-fax fray when Seema Verma, then administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called for the elimination of all fax machines (CMS, 2018). Some progress has been made with proposed rules introduced in January 2021 for improved clinical communication and coordination that meet U.S. HIPAA requirements (Federal Register, 2021). Canada is taking steps to ax the fax, too (Singh & Aggarwal, 2021).
Consider these real-time challenges that regularly happen with faxed patient health data:
For some, paper may be contagious (Lynn, 2021). Using paper requires no training; it’s a flexible and adaptable option for communication. Yet, health care discourse thrives on digital platforms with secure, information-sharing applications.
Michael Garron Hospital, a division of the East Toronto Health Network, has served 400,000 people in 22 diverse neighborhoods for more than 90 years. A case study on the Hypercare website explains how the hospital relies on a smartphone app for easy and efficient digital communication among clinicians.
Dr. Carmine Simone, the hospital’s chief of surgery, uses the app for reviews of patient data and group discussions with colleagues. “Hypercare has made communication between the members of the surgery team so much easier,” he stated. “Not only does it offer a secure platform to communicate about patient issues, but it is also a user-friendly platform for group conversations or group announcements.”
For doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, the Hypercare solution simplifies communication via a smartphone app. Rather than hurriedly leaving an exam room to fax or retrieve important data, a clinician can send or check for the information on their smartphone. It’s easy, with an interface designed for health care.
Similar to instant messaging, the HIPAA-compliant platform provides an interface designed specifically for health care. Pricing meets the needs of users, whether a small team or an enterprise staff.
Arvisais-Anhalt S, et al. What the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has reinforced: the need for accurate data, Clinical Infectious Diseases, March 15, 2021;72(6):920–923.
CMS.gov. Speech: Remarks by Administrator Seema Verma at the ONC Interoperability Forum in Washington, D.C. Aug. 6, 2018.
Davis J. 90% of healthcare providers still reply on fax machines, posing privacy risk. Health IT Security, Nov. 14, 2019.
Federal Register. Proposed Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Support, and Remove Barriers to, Coordinated Care and Individual Engagement. Jan. 21, 2021.
Kirby D. NHS hospitals have only a few weeks left to get rid of their fax machines and are in ‘desperate need of new systems.’ inews.co.uk. Feb. 14, 2020; updated July 10, 2020.
Kliff S. and Sanger-Katz M. Bottleneck for U.S. coronavirus response: the fax machine. New York Times. July 13, 2020.
Lynn J. Paper is contagious. Healthcare IT Today. Feb. 2, 2021.
Rodziewicz TL, Houseman B, Hipskind JE. Medical Error Reduction and Prevention. (Updated January 4, 2021). In: StatPearls (Internet). Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing;
Royal College of Surgeons of England. NHS fax machines still gleaming; RCS find over 8,000 owned by hospitals. July 12, 2018.
Singh P & Aggarwal S. We need to axe the fax in health care now. Toronto Star, March 24, 2021.
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