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Why doctors are still faxing

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If doctors are supposed to be so up-to-date in their fields of expertise, why are so many of them still using fax machines? It turns out that there are some basic business reasons behind relying on the older technology:

  • It costs money to upgrade the technology
  • It costs money to train people in new systems--especially systems requiring passwords and encryption
  • Any transition period from one system to another is full of risk potential in terms of errors and privacy--especially if patient records need to be transferred manually
  • Email is not secure, and can be hacked
  • An inertia in business offices sometimes exists ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it"), as well as resistance to change among long term employees. 

Ironically, even though doctors offices are still awash with faxes, public policy has been a force in making patient records available electronically. This can be a factor in medically superior outcomes. A 2008 stimulus bill required electronic patient records if providers wanted to be paid from federal funds. Now, however, in an anti-regulation era, there is no financial incentive to make changes strictly to benefit patients. There still exists a hope that health care businesses will voluntarily make the investment as it becomes easier for electronic media to talk to each other.



Follow up

  • Another business that still often relies on faxed documents is real estate sales (brokers, notaries, title insurers, et. al.). Describe either your personal experience with faxing and a real estate transaction, or research the ways in which faxing is still a part of these big contracts. What real estate entities are modernizing the process, and what are the risks and rewards?
  • What is your personal experience with--and personal feelings about--faxed documents? 
  • Do you agree that health care businesses are likely to upgrade without any financial incentive? Explain.