Whilst the rest of the world has moved on with the use of smart devices as the most prominent method of remaining connected, hospitals and GP practices still send and receive patient and clinical information via fax machines. So why is this the case, and how do we change it?
The report Embracing the Change Mandate: The 2020 Digital Transformation Agenda for Australia’s Health Care Sector released by Microsoft, in collaboration with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, revealed that one of the top barriers to digital transformation was resistance to change. The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) took these findings, and made it their integral area of focus to eliminate the need for fax machines with their Secure Messaging Program within the Healthcare sector.
Change is difficult, with the need for detailed communication to large numbers of staff and the resistance to shift from current systems and processes to something new and unknown. However, the inefficiency of faxing patient information cannot be overlooked.
First, the costs involved in faxing. Printing, scanning, handling, storing and sharing paper documents consume valuable staff hours, and these manual processes place a heavy burden on practices and their staff. Hours lost to traditional processes could otherwise be dedicated to improving patient care. In addition, most organisations also fail to consider the costs of security, reliability and privacy.
Faxing patient and clinical information depict a substantial risk as important and sensitive details can be misplaced or fall into the wrong hands. This not only results in breach of privacy, but in some cases, leads to delayed care or lack of patient care altogether. It represents a risk that healthcare professionals must not be willing to take.
Even though several vendors offer secure messaging platforms, interoperability issues have resulted in hospitals, GP and Specialists practices opting for communication via fax machines.
Global Health’s interoperability with Telstra Health’s Argus represents progress towards overcoming technical challenges to move towards a universal secure messaging service. Global Health is continually investigating other opportunities with other systems to continue this progress, and with the support of ADHA and RACGP, aims to create a fax-free future by 2025.
With the increased volume of information exchanged, more and more organisations are adapting to the change. The healthcare industry is working towards the goal of protecting patient privacy, and dedicating resources to where it matters most – Delivering improved patient care.