The reinvention of fax technology is futureproofing the transmission of laboratory data


Wednesday, 01 July, 2020

The reinvention of fax technology is futureproofing the transmission of laboratory data

Despite advances in healthcare technology, many laboratories and research centres are still relying on traditional fax machines to transmit sensitive data.

So why haven’t fax machines gone the way of film cameras, cassette tapes and even DVDs? In part, the traditional reliance on paper-based reporting, as well as the need for systems that easily communicate with one another, the immediacy of faxing and perceived insecurity of electronic systems such as emails have kept fax machines as a healthcare laboratory staple.

Will your fax machine adapt to the digital world?

With technology advancing at such a rapid pace in all areas, and digital innovations changing the way we work and communicate on a daily basis, the fax machine may be the last machine standing. Traditional fax machines have served us well for decades, but they do have some drawbacks including their dependence on fixed phone lines and analog technologies, and the high ongoing consumables costs such as ink and paper.

And then there’s the compliance risks.

Traditional fax machines work by transmitting unencrypted data over fixed phone lines, to be printed out on paper by the receiver. A staff member then needs to check each fax, and then scan or manually enter the data onto a system, send, store or destroy that piece of paper it’s printed on. Many laboratories may not understand that this process is probably not HIPAA compliant, with a number of security vulnerabilities that risk exposing them to data breaches, cybersecurity threats and ultimately non-compliance.

Keeping up with technology

It can be tempting to stick to what we know — faxes sent over phone lines. It’s how we’ve done it for years, and it usually works. But as the technology changes, the infrastructure for analog networks is not going to be improved and invested in. The switch to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has opened up different types of fax errors, including packet loss and server downtimes that interfere with transmissions.

As Australia moves forward with the nbn rollout, organisations will be further disrupted. The nbn essentially makes fax machines obsolete, because once the nbn is available in your area existing analog phones, internet and services like Telstra FaxStream will stop working. Not exactly ideal for healthcare facilities that need to be able to send high volumes of critical data.

Fax systems for the future

So, where does this leave the future of the fax? Faxes are still relied on daily by medical, healthcare, laboratories and research centres for their quick, secure and reliable delivery of confidential information that can’t be sent via email.

Cloud faxing provides businesses that rely on the security of faxes a sustainable option for upgrading their efficiency and data management through cloud computing. This works by delivering confidential information instantly through an encrypted email, to a multi-function printer (MFP) or via a secure app. Staff can then review, save, forward and even sign documents digitally. Cloud fax solutions can be easily integrated (with existing technology such as email systems and MFPs meaning you can add your fax processing to your existing data management processes easily).

Moving to cloud faxing creates a streamlined process for communicating sensitive data that is easy to set up and administer. The cloud-based storage of faxes means that data can be securely stored for compliance, legal and auditing processes and there is a significant reduction in the risks of manual errors and over handling of sensitive data.

Upgrade to best practice with inbuilt compliance features

The disruption to the ways laboratories and other healthcare facilities work has only just begun with privacy regulations, the sudden uptake of remote working and telehealth services and the rapid digital advances in technology. Now, more than ever, healthcare workplaces need to look to implementing processes and systems that are flexible and proactive and can easily adapt as new disruptions emerge.

With high-speed data allowing for sending and receiving hundreds of faxes at the same time to different recipients, there’s no downtime or jamming of the fax line while waiting for faxes to send or arrive.

Many popular online document sharing programs aren’t suitable for sharing secure documents or confidential patient information because they are vulnerable to hacking and can easily be shared without any tracking of who has accessed it and when. Being able to securely share large files and know they will only be accessed by the intended recipient also means no more bounced emails, no data storage issues, while staying compliant with data security and privacy laws.

Cloud faxing reserves IT budgets for more important things

Whilst fax machines themselves are not expensive, they do only have a lifespan of around five years. The true costs of using traditional fax machines come from overheads of installing, maintaining and managing the infrastructure and IT support, as well as consumables and administrative staff to manage and troubleshoot them on a daily basis. Moving to cloud faxing means you can sunset your existing fax machines and the ongoing costs to keep them running.

From an IT perspective, setting up and installing a cloud fax system is a simple virtual process that can easily be scaled to include as many staff as you need. When shifting to a cloud based system, there’s no extensive integration process — it automatically integrates with the systems you’re already using such as your ERP or CRM via APIs to ensure faxes seamlessly become part of your organisation’s existing workflows.

Cloud faxing enhances the fax capabilities of MFPs while creating a centrally managed fax ecosystem which completes the compliance blind spots, enables only important faxes to be printed and improves end-to-end workflows around sending and receiving faxes within the lab.

A fax machine wherever you need one

The flexibility of cloud faxing means that setting up intuitive workflows for document management that store, retrieve and share documents securely takes only minutes and saves countless hours of paper shuffling. Imagine having access to a fax machine that can securely send signatures for documents at any time, on any device. No matter where staff are working, they no longer need to find a printer and fax machine to send off that urgent document with a signature. At the touch of a button, they could log in, sign, send and receive instant confirmation. Best of all, that document is automatically archived and stored securely in case it’s needed it in the future.

Productivity and compliance that’s futureproof

The need to securely send and receive confidential patient records and research data with secure encryption means that faxing isn’t going anywhere. But it doesn’t need to be a burden for IT to implement and maintain. Switching to a cloud fax system creates opportunities for streamlined document and information processing workflows that improve the productivity and compliance of your data management, without the heavy overhead costs of maintaining onsite fax hardware and fax servers.

Are you ready to move on from paper jams, transmission errors and the constant upkeep of fax servers and hardware and move to seamless, secure HIPAA compliant faxing?

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Image credit: © Schmit

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