As part of a move towards modernisation and better healthcare provision, Healthcare Secretary Matt Hancock is seeking to eradicate fax technology from the industry. While this move has its benefits, it also presents problems:
The healthcare industry is not ready to remove faxing as a practice, but Hancock insists it must go. What is the solution?
eFax cloud faxing enables healthcare organisations to eliminate the physical fax without risking the disruption of an entirely new system. The integration of digital fax will afford the health service the time it needs to develop the most viable alternative to fax machines.
The modern healthcare industry is rapidly developing with new patient care services. However, while the industry as a whole evolves, one aspect that has seen little change is the sector’s use of fax. Currently, the NHS operates around 8,000 fax machines, with a recent report outlining that 40% of trusts use more than 100 units. The result of this is that the NHS is not the only place within healthcare where the use of faxing is widespread. Those who work with the service also require fax technology to maintain effective communication platforms — fax machines are common in all associated private sectors and organisations, including physiotherapy, mental health clinics, care homes, pharmaceutical providers and more.
Fax remains so ingrained as a method of communication because it has numerous advantages over other systems. Primarily within healthcare, this concerns the immediate transmission of important patient documentation, such as prescriptions, waivers and treatment files. Valid signatures are regularly required for these documents and faxing offers the most reliable way of legally submitting files within and across healthcare organisations.
For healthcare, fax is currently integral to the continued operation. Without the ability to transmit fax files, certain activities could not be carried out.
Healthcare Secretary Matt Hancock has been leading the move against the fax, calling current systems “downright dangerous” and even going as far as to ban the purchase of traditional fax machines, with plans to go “fax-free” by 2020. As part of a recent speech, Hancock discussed how he’s worked “to get out-of-date technology” removed from the NHS, stating tech that “is no longer fit for purpose, like fax machines” needs to be replaced by newer systems. In the wake of this movement, many trusts are looking to support the “axe the fax” campaigns that have been gathering attention among the sector.
But why remove faxing if it has benefits for NHS communication?
Matt Hancock’s move towards the removal of fax machines is not without good reason. His concerns lie over a number of disadvantages that come attached to the use of the technology. Specifically, he refers to a lack of efficiency, as well as poor security, compared to other platforms. He believes newer technology can support a more secure healthcare system and increase operational capacity.
The team at eFax agree that his arguments are not without merit.
Old-fashioned fax machines are known to have security risks. A commonly cited example is an incident when a healthcare practice accidentally sent a patient’s files to the wrong fax number, creating a major confidentiality breach. Such breaches are not uncommon and highlight the vulnerabilities of the physical fax process. Other problems with the technology include high costs of usage, poor security features, reliability issues and inefficient workflow. Sending a fax through a fax machine can be a laborious process that absorbs valuable healthcare professionals’ time and resources.
While Matt Hancock’s plans to remove faxing from the NHS are entirely justified, he still faces a problem. Currently, there is no replacement infrastructure available that can viably satisfy the reliance the healthcare system has on fax technology. This means a new system to replace faxing within the NHS needs to be devised — one that can be used by all its connected organisations and sectors. To achieve something like this by 2020, the system would need to be introduced rapidly and likely see major disruptions that would negatively impact healthcare and its ability to treat patients. A replacement of fax as a communication method would require a total overhaul of healthcare document transmission processes — a significant undertaking.
Hancock is right. The technological weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the physical fax machine need to be removed, but the fax as a communication method cannot simply be made redundant as a result. Faxing is just too valuable to the healthcare industry at the moment — and far too entrenched to be removed so quickly.
So where does this leave us? eFax has a solution.
Matt Hancock's desire for changes to the NHS is utterly necessary and achievable. However, at eFax, we understand this process must be approached carefully.
Implementation of a new system without proper planning could lead to massive costs and potential rollout issues. Last year, the NHS had to settle a bill of £7 million just to reverse the problems caused by the failed introduction of a new IT system — and this was on a small scale for a single trust. If the rollout of a system designed to replace the heavily entrenched communication method of fax was to experience problems, the consequences could be disastrous. eFax believe what the healthcare system needs is an interim solution, one that can meet the demands laid out by the Healthcare Secretary while allowing for long-term infrastructure to be developed at a suitable rate with ample time allotted for testing and effective integration.
eFax cloud faxing services could be that solution.
An entirely digital format, eFax services allow for upgraded fax technology within the healthcare sector. By integrating cloud faxing into operations, the healthcare system can:
eFax cloud faxing can do all this because it works by essentially turning smart devices and computers into fax machines using remotely accessed servers, thus removing the need for old-fashioned fax machines. It offers the comprehensive fax functionality currently in use across the NHS and associated industries and bodies, while also providing a digital alternative that falls in-line with Matt Hancock’s vision for a modernised service.
But how does the introduction of eFax now translate to supporting the development of healthcare technology?
Integration of digital faxing will only change the method of documentation input — it won’t change the processes behind it or which files can be shared. The result is, eFax can be introduced with minimal adaptation, reducing the risk of disruption.
With these immediate and straightforward solutions available, the healthcare sector can look to the future and start to develop a unique system that covers the entire industry network. eFax provides an interim solution that enables healthcare to move into the 21st century and ditch the fax machine and its disadvantages while giving the system time to roll out a new replacement communication infrastructure for faxing. The healthcare system is not yet ready to get rid of faxing, but that is not to say it won’t in the future. The use of eFax cloud faxing presents the opportunity for development now, supporting the building blocks of a better and more secure healthcare service long term.
Our confidence in eFax’s ability to support the healthcare system during this crucial transitionary period is backed by the recent successful integration of our services within a series of Leeds-based teaching hospitals.
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) began implementation of eFax in early 2019 after Hancock’s decision to ban the purchase of fax machines. The goal was to develop a system where fax documents could still be transmitted, but the fax machine itself could be eliminated. The majority of their 350 fax machines were removed from teaching hospitals across the trust, with their faxing platform replaced instead by eFax digital services.
Helen Hochstrasser, Project Manager at LTHT, is quoted as saying that “the reception has been positive.”
Hochstrasser’s message is echoed by Chris Archer, Computer Services Manager at LTHT, who stated: “eFax is highly cost-effective and provides a far more secure way of communicating with key stakeholders in a patients’ care. It will support the removal of traditional fax machines and ensure parties, such as GPs and pharmacies, struggling to relinquish their fax still have a simple method of communicating with the trust.”
Introduction of eFax services to the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust highlights how effective eFax can be as an interim solution for all those operating within the healthcare industry while a long-term answer is developed. The success demonstrates the simplicity of incorporating eFax and how fax as a communication method can be effectively maintained without the need for old-fashioned fax machine technology.