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Is it time to cancel the fax machine? Not if I have anything to say about it.

By Andrew Rebhan

April 1, 2021

    Hello friend. It's me, the fax machine.

    We've been through a lot together. For decades I've been there, ready to receive or send your documents, acting as a trusted tool for transmitting information. Sure, I had some paper jams now and then, but we got through it.

    Infographic: Mobile initiatives maturity framework

    You used me because I was HIPAA-compliant, I offered a simple interface, I was a cheaper alternative to emerging software programs, and I served as a workaround to your EHR vendor's interoperability problem.  

    But I've had a rough couple of years. Technology is accelerating at a rapid pace. Communication is increasingly moving to virtual channels. Twitter recently suspended my account, labeling me a "bot." Gen Z has never heard of me.

    I've been "canceled."

    Just about every industry has shunned me, and now health care is turning on me. The federal government spent $35 billion on the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to push digital records (I, on the other hand, am priceless). Organizations like Advisory Board are publishing slanderous articles titled "One culprit in America's slow coronavirus response: Fax machines," or bringing attention to the efforts to "axe the fax" at the NHS in the UK. These articles say we fax machines "often experience busy signals, are difficult to read, and are prone to errors that can result in records being lost, misplaced, or sent to the wrong location." They say that faxes result in slow response times, manual data entry, and other inefficiencies that drive up costs, frustrate clinicians, and inconvenience patients.

    In fact, I would argue that I'm as relevant as ever. Typewriters are making a comeback, alongside pagers, landline phones, and floppy disks.

    Lately, I've been hearing more about digital or web-based cloud fax technology and the growth in other methods of accessing or sharing patient data, such as public and private health information exchanges, Direct messaging, and national networks like CommonWell or Carequality.

    I know what you're thinking—these "innovations" can't hold a candle to me (and please don't, because my paper tray will catch on fire).

    My critics say that these days patients and clinicians are hyper connected through online portals, smartphones, and mobile apps, with analytics and AI enabling new forms of intelligent automation – all for the sake of making data aggregation and exchange supposedly easier, more efficient, and more impactful.

    But to those critics I would ask this: Is life just about making things … better?

    Quite frankly, I think the digital age has made you soft. You can use more analog in your life. More grit.

    Learn from my resilience. It's 2021, and I'm still here.

    Infographic: Mobile initiatives maturity framework

    Stay ahead of the curve on mobile technology

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