It’s 2019 and the world has witnessed many amazing advancements in digital communication technologies.
Yet, for some reason many medical professionals still rely on the antiquated fax machine to share and communicate sensitive information.
Fax machines have proven to be unreliable and insecure when it comes to transferring private patient information:
- In 2013, a business woman acquired a retired doctor’s fax number and received confidential lab results.
- More than 200 confidential patient documents were sent to a private citizen because his personal fax number was one digit off from a fax line at the local hospital.
These are just two examples that have occurred in Canada.
Medcycle provides innovative fax solutions to ensure that you never lose another referral. Our solutions integrate with your existing workflows and systems to highlight inefficiencies, reduce patient leakage, and save time and money.
We Are All Human
Humans make unintentional mistakes, but even the most innocent error can have serious repercussions, both for a patient’s health and safety as well as their privacy.
Fax machines are not fool-proof. Even the slightest slip of the finger can mean that important and sensitive information does not go where it is intended to go.
Even if you do type in the right number, there are many issues that can happen between sending an important fax and the recipient receiving it.
For example, their fax machine may be experiencing issues such as jammed paper, lower toner or no connection through the phone line. If you don’t pay attention to the confirmations at your end, you may never realize that the fax did not go through.
Should you receive the printed confirmation that your fax was delivered, there is no means by which to indicate the information was physically received by the correct person. Papers can often be lost or misdirected.
Waste of Time
So much time can be wasted sending information through a fax and confirming that it was received. In the world of modern medicine, doctors and their staff don’t have time to waste.
Imagine that you send a fax and receive a printout stating that it was not sent. You send it again but this time you want to make sure that it went through. You call and leave a message with the recipient or send them an email. You then have to wait for their reply before knowing whether or not you need to send that fax again.
New digital communication technologies are designed to confirm immediately if the information was sent successfully and many will indicate if it has been read or opened.
Issues with Privacy
Faxed information is not encrypted. As soon as it prints on the recipient’s end, the information be clearly viewed all who see it. Think of how many offices position their fax machines in plain view at the reception desk.
Fax machines are designed to simply copy and transmit information. They are not designed to protect it.
Every time sensitive information is faxed to a wrong number or delivered to the wrong person, there is the risk of breaching and violating the Health Information Act (HIA).
A Missed Fax May Cost Someone’s Life
It may sound a little extreme, but losing imperative information about a patient’s treatment could result in serious consequences:
Victorian man dies alone after test results faxed to wrong number – coroner slams use of “antiquated” tech
The Victorian coroner has criticized the medical profession’s reliance on “antiquated and unreliable” faxes and called for national communication standards after a cancer patient’s test results were sent to the wrong number and he died alone in a hotel room.
The 58-year-old Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient, Mettaloka Halwala, was found in his bed and fully clothed by hotel staff when they opened the door of his room on the morning of November 17, 2015. The father of two had died from chemotherapy complications.
Four days earlier a PET scan at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital had showed signs of potentially fatal lung toxicity linked to Halwala’s treatment but the results were faxed to the wrong number.
“It is difficult to understand why such an antiquated and unreliable means of communication persists at all in the medical profession,” Coroner Rosemary Carlin said in her inquest findings.
Neither Halwala nor his haematologist, Dr Robin Filshie, who had ordered the scan, were made aware of the results. This, combined with other “shortfalls in his medical management”, meant a further fatal dose of the same drug was administered at Goulburn Valley Hospital.
The day before he was found dead, Halwala had told Dr Filshie he felt unwell. He was advised to go to hospital but didn’t make it there.
The coroner said Halwala had been “let down by the medical profession”.
“Healthcare IT News/ May 11 2018”