The eFax Blog

Paper and the GDPR: How to Improve Compliance in Healthcare

July 18, 2019 - by eFax Team

Are your paper-based practices putting you more at risk of a GDPR infraction? Discover exactly what risks are facing healthcare in terms of non-compliance, and what you can do to reduce them.

Article overview:

Risk of Paper to GDPR

Compliance with GDPR is essential for all organisations operating in the healthcare sector, but vulnerabilities in documentation management could be putting you at risk.

The use of paper files and records present the healthcare sector with numerous hazards that have the potential to be avoided. These include:

  • Unauthorised access.
  • Loss, damage and theft.
  • A lack of security.

One of the primary risk factors associated with paper usage is the continued reliance on fax machine technology. The outdated technology presents its own risks as well:

  • Easy-to-access paper files left on fax machines.
  • Records being submitted to unauthorised parties from misdialing using keypads.
  • Fax machines creating weaknesses in IT systems.

Use of paper should be reduced in order to improve compliance with the GDPR. But how can your healthcare organisation achieve this goal?


How to Reduce Your Pa-per Risk with Cloud Fax-ing

The introduction of online faxing technology can reduce the need for paper while improving compliance with the GDPR.

Compliance is boosted by cloud faxing because:

  • Your data can be encrypted.
  • Your records are stored in password protected locations.
  • Access is controlled and managed digitally.
  • The chance of sharing data with unintended parties is reduced.
  • Data can be easily destroyed with less risk.
  • Data can be optionally stored, archived for accessibility whenever necessary.

Establishing cloud faxing with eFax is easy. Gaining immediate access to digital services, pav-ing way for eliminating paper from your faxing process, can improve GDPR compliance, and your organisation can continue to communicate by fax.


Learn More! Read the Full Story Below


What Is GDPR?

GDPR — General Data Protection Regulations —launched in May 2018 as part of the European Union’s clamp down on how da-ta is used and handled by businesses, organisations and non-profits, and any other publicly operating entities. The aim of introducing GDPR was to ensure:

  • Individuals have greater control over their personal data.
  • Data security measures are increased.
  • The processing and usage of personal data are made clear.

What Does GDPR Compliance Actually Mean for Your Healthcare Organisation?

No one is immune to the impact of GDPR. If you manage personal data on behalf of individuals based in the European Union, you will be affected in some way. As the healthcare industry is so often reliant on the use of personal information to offer care and treatment for patients, organisations operating within the sector are impacted by the GDPR.

The result is that compliance with the GDPR is utterly essential for most healthcare organisations. It does not matter if you are a NHS trust operating a huge roster of patients or a private practice — if you have individuals under your care, you will have personal data therefore you must comply with the regulations.

Failure to meet compliance with the GDPR will mean that, if a breach occurs, you could face serious consequences and poten-tially heavy fines. Given that the private healthcare sector is the most vulnerable industry in terms of data breaches, it’s vital that your practice is compliant with the GDPR.

Unsecured patient paper records demonstrate GDPR risk

Paper and the GDPR: How Are They Connected?

From sending paper letters to using fax machines, it is common to find physical paper documentation being used, stored and shared in the sector. This can create problems for compliance with the GDPR. While you may have increased the security of your digital assets following the introduction of the GDPR, paper documents are still beholden to the new laws. Paper documents that con-tain personal information — be they patient records, prescription information, waivers or contact forms — must be protected.

As part of the GDPR, you are required to offer “data protection by design and by default.” All personal data you manage must be used only for activities that the owner of the personal data has consented to. You are responsible for making sure this happens. Any use outside of their consent is not compliant with the GDPR and could result in legal repercussions.

It is critical that you pay attention not only to how your digital documents are secured, but your paper ones as well.

The Risks of Paper in Healthcare

There are a series of risks associated with the use of paper in compliance with the GDPR — risks that, if not addressed, could result in breaches. These include:

  • Lack of Encryption — Digital files can be protected by encryption, which can aid prevention of data from being manipulated during transit. Paper documents are not protected in the same way, which means theft or loss could result due to easy access.
  • Unsecured Storage — The GDPR requires personal information to be properly secured. Filing cabinets, desk draws, shelving units and other easy-to-reach places are not secure; even locked units can be easily compromised. These are common locations to store physical paper files within your healthcare organisation, however they are less secure than digitally stored files.
  • Unauthorised Access — Only those authorised to view personal information are permitted to do so. Pa-per files clearly have no method of blocking viewership and must be placed somewhere safe. If access is not tightly regulated, which can be difficult to ensure in busy workplaces, unauthorised access is a possibility, which makes paper files more at risk of security breaches.
  • Outdated Records — The GDPR requires personal data to be kept up to date. Updating paper docu-ments can be difficult and time-consuming, which means it will likely become a process that is delayed or ignored.
  • Disposal of Paper — If paper is not disposed of properly, information can be exposed. Complacent practices can result in personal information being revealed to those it shouldn’t, simply because a file was placed in a bin without proper destruction processes carried out.

Fax Machines and Increased Paper Risk

There are numerous uses of paper within the healthcare sector, and one major factor involved in this is the continued use of fax machine technology. Physical fax machines require paper, which results in many risks as highlighted above. However, the fax ma-chine presents its own risks:

  • Misdialing, or the fat finger problem, is common among fax machine users. It is actually the second biggest cause of per-sonal data breaches that result from human error. It is all too easy to accidentally send sensitive patient data to the wrong place, resulting in major and obvious breaches of the GDPR.
  • When you receive a fax using a fax machine, it is held on the unit or immediately printed. Either way, it is accessible to any-one who is in close proximity to the fax machine. Unless the fax machine is locked inside your office, where only you have ac-cess, the documents you are receiving and sending are not secure. This is due to the potential of your documents being viewed by an unauthorised party — be it other members of staff, patients or clients.
  • The recent discovery of a vulnerability known as the “faxploit” has identified weaknesses in fax machine security. Having a fax machine connected to your IT systems means hackers can enter your network via the machine’s unprotected analog chan-nels and wreak havoc elsewhere. This can result in data theft and access — a huge problem for compliance with the GDPR.

How to Improve use of Paper for Compliance with the GDPR

In order to improve compliance with the GDPR when it comes to paper usage, one of the simplest and most effective answers is to reduce the volume of paper being consumed by your healthcare organisation. This can be a difficult process to manage.

The NHS has laid out plans to make the health and social care industry paperless by 2020. However, this requires numerous or-ganisations to work together. Predictions are that the paperless 2020 goal is not achievable, at least not completely, and these argu-ments are not entirely without merit. The NHS currently operates over 9,000 fax machines, and many more exist in other organisa-tions in the healthcare industry. Removal of all these units by 2020 seems like a tall order, which means paper documents will contin-ue to play a significant part in the healthcare sector and the GDPR risks will continue to exist.

Medical professional and GDPR

But, just because the risk exists for others, that doesn't mean it must exist for you and your healthcare organisation. You can act now to minimise the risks to GDPR breaches. How can you do this? By incorporating cloud-faxing technology into your workplace.

The Cloud-Faxing Solution

Clearly you can’t get rid of faxing — it’s too important to eliminate as a form of communication. However, fax machines are pre-senting your organisation with potential GDPR breaches. Thankfully, there is a way to continue sending faxes without relying on paper documentation. Online faxing services — known as cloud faxing — help provide better security measures to aid compliance with GDPR, while enabling your business to freely send and receive fax documents.

How does it work?

Online cloud faxing is an entirely digital system, with fax sent exclusively over the internet. The platform also allows you to send to, and receive documents from, traditional fax machines. eFax Corporate’s digital faxing solutions are capable of adapting file for-mats to be communicated with both online cloud-faxing powered devices and fax machine units. This means your healthcare organi-sation can maintain all faxing capabilities. However, it no longer has the need to use paper in this process, as all files are handled digi-tally via our mobile application or secure online portal.

Cloud faxing offers:

  • Encryption — Files stored on eFax Corporate services, using the secure feature, are encrypted to an advanced standard TLS. This ensures that your fax documents are protected in transit from their point of origin on your organi-sation’s network to your recipient’s fax.
  • Pre-Approved Contacts — With cloud faxing there is no number input using a keypad. Fax documents are submitted to pre-set contacts instead, which reduces the chances of sending files to unintended recipients.
  • Limited Access — Paper documents no longer sit on a fax machine and paper is not left in unsecured locations. Files are held behind access controls and logins. This lowers the risk of unauthorised access.
  • Easy Access to Documents — If desired, your healthcare organisation can store and archive files using our document management system. This allows you to easily access, destroy or update information whenever necessary. It also makes it much more difficult for documents to be misplaced or lost.

eFax Corporate digital faxing solutions are the answer you’ve been searching for, enabling you to eliminate paper from your faxing process, improving compliance with GDPR. Protect your documents today by signing up to our online faxing services. Discover all the benefits that eFax can bring to your organisation.