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What happens when a GP refuses to accept any more faxes?


Doug Hendrie


2/10/2018 11:54:58 AM

Dr Oliver Frank says GPs have great influence in nudging healthcare towards the digital age.

Removing the fax machine from healthcare has been difficult due to its relative security and interoperability.
Removing the fax machine from healthcare has been difficult due to its relative security and interoperability.

In the internet era, the fax seems to be an anachronism.
 
Yet healthcare remains the last redoubt of the humble machine.
 
The issue flared this year when a Victorian coroner took aim at the old technology after a man died because vital health information was faxed to the wrong number.
 
But, for all its faults, removing the fax machine from healthcare has been difficult due to its relative security and interoperability.
 
Digital replacements like secure messaging have struggled to achieve full adoption because most systems are not interoperable, which means you can’t send a message from one proprietary system to another.
 
Many GPs are simply waiting until the problems are solved, but Adelaide GP, researcher and eHealth advocate Dr Oliver Frank is not one of them. He has decided to act as if the fax machine is already dead.

He simply refuses to accept any patient information via fax.
 
Dr Frank’s office letterhead includes the line, ‘In the interests of providing quality care safely and efficiently, we have no paper records. Please do not send letters, documents or messages via fax’. He then lists three secure messaging systems other healthcare professionals can use to send patient information securely.
 
‘It’s not as if this is theoretical or happening in the future. GPs can stop most of their faxing right now with the software they already have on their computers. It’s just a matter of getting on with it,’ Dr Frank told newsGP.

Dr-Oliver-Frank-text.jpgDr Oliver Frank’s office letterhead includes the line, ‘In the interests of providing quality care safely and efficiently, we have no paper records. Please do not send letters, documents or messages via fax’.
 
The response from other healthcare professionals has been interesting.
 
One specialist sent a letter by post. Others continue to send faxes to Dr Frank’s practice, but some have started to use secure messaging. And when Dr Frank is forced to send faxes, he sends a preamble saying that he strongly prefers to deal with health professionals who use electronic messaging.
 
He now sends half of his referrals and receives the replies through the secure messaging services he has installed.
 
Dr Frank said many GPs would already have at least one secure messaging service installed, often without knowing it.
 
‘GPs need to say to others, this is what we want,’ he said. ‘It’s crazy for fully digital GPs to be handling paper others are sending us.
 
‘Even worse, at the other end, they’re often fully digital too. So they’re printing, faxing to us, and we scan the blurry pages back into our systems.
 
‘We have to make it harder for [other providers] to fax and easier for them to communicate electronically. There’s a lot of talk, but let’s just take action.
 
‘[GPs] are influential, especially with specialists who rely on our referrals.’



ehealth fax machine interoperability secure messaging





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