Fax machines have a tight grip on hospitals despite widespread EHR adoption

As hospitals rapidly digitalize products and services, healthcare providers are still using fax machines to share medical data, Bloomberg Law reported Nov. 4.

Although EHRs have been widely adopted since the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and host the majority of medical information, fax machines are still a necessary part of moving medical data across technology platforms. At least 70 percent of healthcare providers still exchange medical information using a fax machine, Steve Posnack, deputy assistant coordinator in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, told Bloomberg.

To move away from fax machines and toward EHRs, electronic record developers need to incorporate tools to enhance interoperability between systems, according to the report.

It’s common for a healthcare provider to print records from an EHR and fax them to another provider, who then extracts the information from the faxed records to enter into the provider’s own EHR, Mr. Posnack told Bloomberg.

Subha Airan-Javia, MD, a hospitalist with Penn Medicine and co founder and CEO of digital health company CareAlign, told Bloomberg that EHRs attempt to be an all-in-one solution, but some vital aspects are perfunctory add-ons, such as mobile capabilities for patient bedsides.

"Mobile workflows should be central to helping the clinicians because if they’re not, you’re back in the world of paper and faxes, and doctors walking around with notepads," she said.

To be able to move away from fax machines will require that EHRs focus on the needs of clinicians instead of heavily focusing on the needs of the billing department, said Will O'Connor, chief medical information officer at health ITt company TigerConnect.

"We’ve spent billions and billions of government dollars on these EHRs, and in many ways, we’re back to where we started, with doctors and nurses still unable to communicate in an efficient way," he told Bloomberg.

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