Fax machines are ubiquitous in American medicine, despite the fact that they may seem outdated and inefficient. In an age where technology has advanced to the point where we can communicate instantly with people across the globe, it seems strange that we are still relying on this antiquated technology. So why is it that American medicine still runs on fax machines?

Regulations and Standards

One of the main reasons fax machines are still used in American medicine is due to regulations and standards. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that all medical records be kept confidential and secure. 

Fax machines are considered a secure method of transmitting medical records, as they are not connected to the internet and cannot be hacked. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has also established standards for secure fax communications. These standards require that faxes be encrypted and include a cover sheet indicating the confidentiality of the information being transmitted.


Another reason fax machines are still used in American medicine is due to interoperability issues with electronic health records (EHRs). 

EHRs are designed to be a digital record of a patient’s medical history, but the systems used by different healthcare providers are often incompatible with each other. This means that healthcare providers cannot share medical records electronically and must resort to faxing them instead. 

The use of fax machines is seen as a stopgap measure until a more effective solution for interoperability can be found.

Types of Documents Doctors Send and Receive via Fax

Doctors often send and receive a variety of documents via fax, including:

  • Patient medical records: Fax machines are often used to send and receive patient medical records, including test results, diagnoses, and treatment plans.
  • Prescription orders: Doctors can fax prescription orders to pharmacies, eliminating the need for patients to physically pick up a paper prescription.
  • Referral letters: When a patient needs to see a specialist, the referring doctor can fax a referral letter to the specialist’s office.
  • Insurance information: Doctors may use fax machines to send and receive insurance information, such as pre-authorization requests and claims.
  • Legal documents: In cases where legal documents are required, such as disability claims or workers’ compensation cases, doctors may use fax machines to send and receive documents.

‍Traditional vs Online Fax Service: Which is Better in the Healthcare Industry

Both traditional and online fax services have their own advantages and disadvantages in the healthcare industry.

Traditional fax machines are reliable and widely used in the healthcare industry. They are secure and compliant with HIPAA regulations as long as they are used properly. Additionally, they do not require an internet connection, which can be useful in areas with poor connectivity.

On the other hand, online fax services offer several advantages over traditional fax machines. 

They are cost-effective and do not require purchasing or maintaining a physical machine. They are also more convenient, as they can be accessed from any device with an internet connection and integrated with electronic health records (EHR) systems. Furthermore, they offer additional security features, such as encryption and two-factor authentication.

Overall, the choice between traditional and online fax services depends on the specific needs and preferences of the healthcare organization. Some may prefer the reliability and familiarity of traditional fax machines, while others may opt for the convenience and cost-effectiveness of online fax services.

The Bottomline

While fax machines may seem outdated in today’s world of instant communication, they still play a crucial role in America’s healthcare industry. As regulations and standards require secure transmission of medical records, and interoperability issues persist with electronic health records, the fax machine remains reliable and secure.

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