Remember the 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails? But you never heard about any hacked faxes, did you? That’s because fax technology, a punchline in the minds of many otherwise technologically sophisticated people, is the most secure form of communication short of whispering into someone’s ear. Secure cloud fax technology is crucial to the healthcare industry and indispensable for many professional uses when confidentiality is crucial.
“Universal acceptance, iron clad security and interoperability, those are the three main reasons why fax is still the main mode of communication in healthcare,” explained Barry Clark, founder of WestFax, a leading HIPAA compliant fax service provider. “Secure cloud fax allows people to do away with legacy paper fax machines.”
The central importance of fax technology in healthcare, which accounts for about one in every five dollars spent in the US economy, rests on two federal laws, the first of which is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA, as the law is known, mandates confidentiality of sensitive patient health information. The law penalizes not just actual information breaches but simply exposing patient information such that it could have been in jeopardy.
The second major law was the stimulus legislation passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which included major funding for healthcare providers to switch their record keeping from paper to digital. The result, whether intended or not, was that large healthcare systems developed discrete digital health record systems that could not communicate with other digital health record systems.
“There are thousands of electronic healthcare record (EHR) management systems, and they each have reasons for their system to be the most commonly used,” said Clark. “They have competing interests but fax is how providers can communicate with any EHR. That’s why fax is ubiquitous in healthcare.”
WestFax, founded in 1999, now has offices in four states and about 50 employees. Revenue numbers are private but the company is a major provider of secure cloud fax services for healthcare, Clark said.
“It’s always been fax,” he said. “We started out sending high volume healthcare faxes, and we still do that.” Pharmaceutical companies use the service to meet notification requirements of the FDA drug approval process. At certain stages of development drug makers are required to notify every doctor in the country and confirm the doctor received the information. That requirement could be met at the cost of several dollars per registered letter, or for a few cents per fax.
“Fax is the low cost way to accomplish that,” Clark said.
The fax technology remains central in other businesses as well, Clark noted. CPAs communicate with the IRS via fax because it is secure, as do lawyers when sending confidential client information and schools sending or receiving student transcripts.
“In general, anybody who wants to send information securely uses fax,’’ Clark said. “That’s because fax is 100 percent secure.”