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Time to Axe the Fax

One of the most consistent comments we receive when we show Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story is that the villain in the story is the fax machine.  People regularly share their stories about how the fax machine has caused breaks in the continuity of their care.  Fortunately, people have also told us that because they know Greg’s story they have taken the steps to close the loop themselves or for a family member and they have closed gaps caused by the outdated technology.

Fax machines are commonly used for referrals and to share information between physicians.  In a recent Globe & Mail article, Andre Picard stated that “Medical clinics in this country, on average, send and receive a mind-boggling 24,000 pages of faxed information annually.”

We know the fax machine is a problem, that it is extensively used, and that there are secure alternatives out there - so why is its use still so widespread in healthcare?  If there was a simple answer to this question we likely wouldn’t be in this position and in order to credibly respond, we need to understand why it is being used and what the obstacles to change actually are.

What are the barriers? 

We are not experts in this but we do have a few ideas on what some of the factors are - real and/or perceived - and in no particular order:

  • Privacy and security risk.
  • Policy, standards and/or regulations.
  • There is no incentive to change and/or incentives actually reinforce the use of the fax.
  • Alternatives are difficult to implement and/or have a significant (negative) impact on workflow.
  • Lack of public awareness. This applies to both the awareness of the risks associated with the use of the fax and the assumption that the healthcare industry has adopted technology at the same pace as other industries.
  • System culture of control, fear of change, and love of the status quo.

So how do we make the change, challenge the status quo and effectively axe the fax?  We want to hear your thoughts, knowledge, stories and ideas so we can all learn and contribute in moving healthcare forward.

Please share your thoughts below or within these 3 activity streams:

Facts about the Fax

This thread will be a place to gather data and resources about the use of the fax machine in the healthcare system.  Feel free to add to the list and we want to hear from those of you working in the health system - please tell us how you use the fax machine and why.

Fax Machine Story Share

This is a place for stories about the fax machine.  We know the failure of the fax caused breaks in Greg’s care and we want to hear about other people’s experiences as well.

#AxetheFax Ideas

Do you have an idea about how to overcome current barriers and Axe the Fax? We want to hear from you!

We also hope you will provide constructive feedback on the ideas of others.  We believe that through the diversity of members in this community we will be able to develop and build ideas that will have a positive impact.