eFax Blog

eFax: A Smarter Approach For Improved Healthcare

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 by eFax Team

If you're in the healthcare industry, you've probably heard the phrase "Axe the Fax" thrown around. The Axe the Fax debate spans multiple countries and industries, but it really gained popularity in the UK's healthcare industry in 2019. That year, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) highlighted fax machines as "archaic" pieces of technology that hold the industry back. 


At the dawn of the Axe the Fax debate, the NHS operated over 9,000 fax machines. While many offices have now removed their machines, the NHS is still very reliant on fax machines. 


And they aren't the only healthcare system stuck with an office fax machine. In Australia, many doctors offices, hospitals and care homes still rely on fax machines to transmit patient documents, referrals and messages between healthcare professionals. 


But that's a huge problem, and in this article, we'll explain why. 

Fax's Role in Healthcare

People often describe fax machines as an outdated piece of 80s technology that went out of fashion with portable cassette players and VHS players. 


However, workplaces around the world still use fax machines every day. In fact, there are currently an estimated 43 million fax machines in operation worldwide, and people still send 17 billion faxes every year (though some of these are online faxes).


In many industries, fax machines keep things running smoothly. Healthcare is one of those industries. 


According to a study from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), approximately 53% of healthcare professionals consider faxing their primary letter-sending method. 

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Furthermore, research from 2020 shows that 79% of digital communication in medicine is through faxing. 


Faxing remains popular in healthcare for many reasons, including that:

  • Healthcare professionals are used to fax machines 

  • Healthcare organisations work with many handwritten documents (like prescriptions)

  • Faxing a document less fiddly than mailing or emailing it

  • Many organisations have already integrated fax machines into their daily operations 


However, the Australian healthcare industry's reliance on fax machines is a serious problem. As Global Health's National Sales and Marketing Manager Deborah Hudson puts it: 


“Although faxing has worked for some time, healthcare professionals are coming to the consensus that as an industry, we have outgrown the fax machine and its limited capabilities; there is a clear need to move forward and secure messaging is the answer."

Why Australia Needs To Ditch Fax Machines in Healthcare 

Fax machines aren't just a quirky piece of technology; they are an active risk to healthcare organisations that use them. Here's why:

  • Fax Machines are a Cybersecurity Risk

Over the past few years, Australians have become increasingly aware of the risks of sending private information online. According to Specops, Australia is the world's 6th most hacked country (alongside Ukraine). And in 2019 alone, Australia lost $634 million to cyber scams


Fax machines are very open to hacking or compromise, as they don't have the same cybersecurity protection measures other devices use. When you send a fax through a fax machine, the machine transmits it unencrypted. This means your fax can be stolen by:

  • Anyone at the machine you sent the fax from

  • Anyone who taps the fax line 

  • Anyone who walks past the machine that receives your fax 

  • Anyone with access to the place you store faxes 


It's also easy to phish organisations with fax machines. When someone phishes you, they impersonate a colleague or friend to trick you into clicking a link or downloading a document that contains malware. According to a study of 8 million simulated phishing emails from PhishMe, 36% of the people PhishMe phished opened the corrupt email because it told them they had received a scanned document like a fax. 


Though email phishing might sound like a strange way of stealing data, it's an enormous problem. Last year, the Australian Cyber Security Centre revealed that 27% of Australia's cybersecurity incidents came from email phishing. 

  • Fax Machines Compromise Patient privacy

Between July and December 2019, 22% of Australia's data breaches occurred in healthcare. The reason why is obvious: healthcare organisations store personal data, including a person's Medicare number and home address. Hackers that steal this information can sell it or use it to steal a person's identity. 


And unfortunately, fax machine's make data theft easy. As fax machines have limited cybersecurity measures, people with malicious intent can steal patient data by tapping the fax line or simply taking faxes from the "received" tray of the machine. 


In a world where data is currency, this makes fax machines a threat to patient privacy. 

  • Fax Machines Have a Large Footprint

Fax machines perform an essential job in healthcare, but they also require many resources to operate. 


You need to pay for ink, paper, repairs, maintenance, fax line rental, and the device itself to run a fax machine. All of this adds up fast, as it costs $1,259.76 to run the average machine for one year. 


You also need to maintain your machine carefully, including changing the ink and paper and fixing problems (like the dreaded "busy signal"). 


But fax machine's don't just take a lot of time and money from the healthcare organisations that use them: they harm the environment. 


The ink that powers fax machines has a large carbon footprint, as depending on the type of cartridge you use, it takes 2.5 ounces to a gallon of oil to make each cartridge. Once an ink cartridge is empty, they don't decompose straight away. It takes an average of 450 - 1,000 years for a single cartridge to decompose. 

What The Experts Say About Machine Faxing

Australia's own Axe the Fax dispute is still ongoing, but many experts have weighed in on the debate. 


Dr Harry Nespolon (the President of RACGP) believes that transitioning from fax is a "significant change", though he believes it's ultimately a good idea. Speaking to HealthcareIT, he pointed out that the industry's dependence on paper increases the workload of most GP offices, as staff need to process documents by hand.


He also argues that this reduces the time doctors spend with patients, stating: "the inefficiencies of current processes creates a heavy burden on GPs, diverting their time away from providing essential medical care for patients.”  


Darren Rogers (the General Manager and Director of Clinical Services at UnitingCare St Stephen Hospital) expressed a similar perspective to Dr Nespolon. He believes that Australia's healthcare industry needs to transition away from fax machines, though it's tricky, as he says: “it’s hard to change a system that works a great deal of the time, but a unified approach is needed for improving the quality and delivery of care.”


Many experts have also mentioned the need for a secure, digital messaging system that can transmit documents. One of these experts is the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA)'s Chief Operating Officer, Bettina McMahon, who says: “Secure messaging is a foundational capability enabling interoperability and safe, seamless, and secure information sharing between healthcare providers.”


But what sort of digital messaging service would work best in Australia's healthcare industry? The answer could be online faxing. 

Online Fax: A Potential Solution?

Online faxing (sometimes called "internet faxing") is a new type of document sharing that transmits files via the internet. Though it may sound new, online faxing has been around since 1996. 

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There are many differences between online faxing and traditional faxing, as laid out in the table below.



Online Faxing

Traditional Faxing

File transmission method

Via the internet

Via analog fax lines

File sent from

Computer, smartphone or tablet

Fax machine

File received through

Computer, smartphone or tablet

Fax machine

Materials required

Subscription to online faxing and device

Fax machine, ink, paper, fax line connection

NBN compatibility

Fully compatible

Not compatible

Encryption

Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption and 128-bit encryption

Most machines are not encrypted

Storage format

Automatic and cloud-based

Manual (you need to file to yourself)

Prints out fax?

No (but you can print it yourself)

Yes

Where can you fax from?

Anywhere (provided you have your device with you)

Wherever the machine is

Files transmitted

Many file types, including PDF, MP3, and MOV

Only documents

Fax number included?

Yes

No

Ways you can send a fax

You can fax from your desktop, web browser, email or through an iOS or Android app

Through machine only

Annual cost

$169.50 - $215.55 (plan dependent)

$1,259.76


Why Online Fax Is Perfect For Australia's Healthcare System

Although online faxing is significantly newer than traditional faxing, it's very popular. Online fax provider eFax alone helps over eleven million customers fax and transmits over a billion faxes monthly


Online fax's popularity comes from its reliability, security and affordability. Naturally, it's perfect for Australia's healthcare industry because:


  • It's Cybersecure

When you send a fax with a service like eFax, your faxing system encrypts it with Transport Layer Security (TLS) and 128-bit encryption. So, if someone stole your fax, they wouldn't be able to read its contents without the key to the encryption. 


Online faxing also uses cyber-secure storage. When you use a service provider like eFax, the system automatically stores your outgoing and ingoing faxes in the cloud. This means that someone would need to log onto your computer and into your fax system to steal your fax.


Naturally, online faxing is far more secure than machine faxing - making it the better solution for patient privacy. 


  • It's Budget and Carbon Conscious

You only need two things to send a fax online: an internet-connected device and a subscription to an online faxing service. 


As online faxing doesn't require ink or paper, it has a smaller environmental footprint. 


It's also better for your budget. While running a fax machine costs over a thousand dollars a year, online faxing starts from just $169.50 a year


Naturally, online faxing is the "conscious" choice. 


  • It's NBN-Compatible 

Though many healthcare organisations are committed to their fax machines, Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout has changed how we fax. 


As part of the NBN rollout, technicians disconnect old PSTN / ISDN analog fax lines and replace them with new digital ones. As fax machines require analog fax lines to run, this is a massive problem for fax machines.  


To keep their fax machine online, many organisations have attached a telephone adapter to their machine. Telephone adapters bring fax machines onto the digital network, allowing them to send faxes without analog fax lines. 


But telephone adapters aren't a perfect solution. While some fax machines can operate through an adapter, many are simply too old or incompatible. 


Naturally, many healthcare organisations have made the switch to the only NBN-compatible solution: online faxing.

eFax: The Perfect Fax Option For Healthcare

Australia's healthcare industry constantly changes as it adapts to the new, digital world. Embracing online faxing is one such change. 


And if you're considering switching from a fax machine, you should try eFax. eFax is a leading fax provider that puts the power to fax in your phone, computer or tablet. 


But that's not all eFax can do. eFax's faxing system is full of features, including a PDF converter, digital signatures, cloud-based storage, email faxing, an address book and large file transfer up to 3GB.


If you'd like to try eFax for yourself, test it out with a free 30-day trial. As part of this trial, eFax will give you up to 400 free faxes, a free fax number and full access to their online faxing system. 


Start your free 30-day trial by clicking here or calling 1800 283 361.
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eFax Team - eFax Team

eFax has grown to become one of the world's largest providers of Internet messaging services, offering fax by email to more than 11 million subscribers. 

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