Can digital fax technology help to more-effectively drive the Government's plan to rid the NHS of archaic fax machines?
Technology experts are calling for an end to the ‘fax witch hunt’ within the NHS, suggesting there is a better solution to ensuring healthcare services are keeping pace with digital innovation.
Digital fax providers, eFax, this week claimed the healthcare industry’s processes are not yet ready to totally abolish faxing as a way of communication, despite the Government’s announcement of a ban on both buying and using fax machines in the future.
Scott Wilson, director of sales and service at j2 Global, parent company of eFax, said of the current strategy: “Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is right to move forward with plans to eliminate fax machines from the NHS. But, we think there needs to be a better solution to the problem than total removal of faxing as a practice.”
Over 8,000 fax machine units are currently in use across the NHS, with 40% of trusts operating more than 100 machines.
The healthcare system is just not ready to eradicate fax and there is currently no infrastructure universally available that can replace it
The result is that there is also considerable use across connecting services such as pharmacies, physiotherapists, and private practices.
Wilson said: “The healthcare system is just not ready to eradicate fax and there is currently no infrastructure universally available that can replace it.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has described the use of archaic technology such as fax machines as 'downright dangerous'
“A new system would be expensive and require a total software and hardware overhaul, with downtime that could affect patients and staff.
“Massive and rapid adjustments to public-sector technology are notorious for their high costs and have the potential for disruption.
“A recent NHS upgrade resulted in a bill of £7m just to reverse the problems it caused, while, in law enforcement, a new system led to a bill of £100m.”
The answer to Hancock’s concerns, he suggests, is not to remove faxing, but to upgrade the fax process within the NHS and connected healthcare services.
“As a practice faxing is highly beneficial,” he said.
“It allows for the submission of important signatures and visual paperwork, as well as immediate access to documents.
“What we want to do is not remove faxing, but remove the source of the problems, the fax machine.”
Digital fax is a replacement to fax machines with documents still being sent and received, and even communicated to fax machines if necessary, but the process is carried out entirely through digital, computer and smart device platforms.
“Movement to digital faxing is the perfect solution for the current crisis,” Wilson said.
Adaptation to digital faxing minimises risks of disruptions, removes the need for expensive new systems, and provides a recognisable communication practice, all while meeting the changing demands of modern healthcare
“It enables healthcare bodies to meet Hancock’s demands of adapting to new technology, while simultaneously maintaining fax continuity using available infrastructure.
“Adaptation to digital faxing minimises risks of disruptions, removes the need for expensive new systems, and provides a recognisable communication practice, all while meeting the changing demands of modern healthcare through increased document security, technology accessibility and better reliability.
“It also acts as an interim solution and allows for immediate changes to be made while supporting slower and more-stable development of unique systems that can be rolled out to better effect in the future for the long term.”