Why Is Your Doctor Still Using a Fax?


When was the last time you used a fax machine? You know, that oversized telephone-looking thing that sends pictures by converting them into a bitmap and then transmitting said image through the telephone system in the form of audio-frequency tones? If you didn’t understand most of what I just said, you’re not alone. We live in the digital age, which means that fax machine technology has been outdated for some years now.

Which makes one stop and think…. Why are fax machines still the main way for physicians to send patient information?

The business of health

At a recent ONC's Interoperability Forum in Washington, D.C., CMS Administrator Seema Verma said stated that although we have the technology to easily and efficiently record patient information in the cloud, physicians are still taking their notes on paper.

“Too often patients are told their data can't be shared with another provider. But systems refused to share data because of the fear the patient will be poached,” Verma said.

Simply put: healthcare is a business, and as such, healthcare businesses aren’t looking to make your records easily accessible to you because that increases the likelihood you might take your health — and your money — elsewhere.

The reality is, however, that access to our own health records is a necessary step toward empowering individuals to take control of their healthcare. (And doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll jump ship on their healthcare providers!)

Tracking conditions over time, having thoughtful conversations with specialists, and generally being well informed about your health helps to keep costs low and processes efficient for both patients and providers. The technology to take the healthcare industry into the next century is at our fingertips, if only we choose to utilize it.

Moving our current healthcare system forward

Verma and CMS want to move the industry in this direction. They are seeking developers, and already have an estimated 600 interested in building consumer-friendly applications for Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to the applications, services and research programs they trust.

It's about driving a new era of digital health, Verma said, liberating data to put patients in charge of their healthcare. To avoid payment reductions, physicians and hospitals will have to give patients electronic access to their health records. Verma said she's also called on insurers to release their claims data so that health information is no longer locked in siloed systems.

Sounds like we’re headed in the right direction, doesn’t it?

What you can do to take control of your health

Most of us don’t think much about having access to our own health records — until we really, really need them. By then, it’s a mad dash to get all the relevant information from all the relevant providers…. And you might be held up if you don’t have a fax machine! (And really, why would you?)

The time to start talking about access to our health records is before we actually need them! So ask your doctor today how you can get ahold of your own health data.


Kirstan Vandersluis