Viewpoint: Lack of EHR interoperability keeps fax machines alive in hospitals

Fax machines have remained an integral way for hospitals and health systems to securely exchange patient health data in lieu of proficient interoperability between different EHR systems, according to Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Minor argued that despite new technology advances in medicine, EHR interoperability has yet to increase.

"In a world where the Apple Watch is being deployed in medical studies, why do we still rely on a clunky beige box that peaked in popularity around the same time as the Walkman?" Dr. Minor wrote.

He attributed the prevalence of fax machines to the abundance of siloed information in healthcare. Siloed information prohibits hospitals and healthcare organizations from electronically sharing information, which created a medical environment that over relies on faxes, mailing information and requiring patients to deliver their paper records from one provider to the next.

In addition to providing a way to work around lack of EHR interoperability, fax machines also feature easier-use interfaces and targeted information as opposed to data overload, Dr. Minor wrote. However, to finally abandon the use of fax machines in healthcare, EHR systems must enhance vendor-wide standardization and interfaces.

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