Key Piece to Today’s Interoperability Puzzle: Cloud Fax

Digital cloud fax technology can fill an important interoperability need in the here and now.

More than three-quarters of medical communication takes place via faxing. While paper-based fax has drawn the ire of federal officials working to promote interoperability, faxing capabilities have never proven more useful for health data exchange than during this present public health crisis, especially digital cloud fax technology (DCFT).

"When providing healthcare services, the patient is the focus. Technology is a mere enabler. Technology solutions that do not add value to the patient experience will not be adopted. Cloud faxing has remained relevant and useful — it is familiar and proven," says Bevey Miner, Chief Strategy Officer, Consensus Cloud Solutions.

Traditional faxing is fraught with vulnerabilities, but cloud fax has addressed those threats and provided a means for enabling healthcare interoperability in a familiar but more secure way.

“As a form of digital document exchange, cloud fax helps organizations move documents efficiently and securely between different systems and meets the definition of foundational interoperability,” Miner adds.

While technologies based on new and emerging health IT standards are the future of healthcare interoperability, cloud fax is ready and able to help providers through the coronavirus pandemic. DCFT gives providing care teams access to an affordable, proven, familiar, and convenient method for sharing patient data across disparate systems.

“Cloud fax meets a very relevant and timely need of information exchange due to the remote nature of how healthcare is being delivered at the moment,” Miner explains. “Providers know how to fax. They see patients one or two times and require a referral document and physician signature to get services started. This can be accomplished through a cloud fax document without the concern of data standards and system integrations."

Though many providers have adopted electronic health records thanks to the EHR Incentive Programs, pockets of the country — especially those in medically underserved areas and communities — lack this technology that serves as the foundation for standards-based health data exchange. This reality could lead to health disparities and poor health outcomes as a result of a lack of access to care and available technical resources. Post-acute, telehealth, behavioral health, and EMS care need patient information to support safe patient care. They were not incented to buy EHRs during meaningful use and do not have technology universally used for advanced data standards to deliver care.

“They may not have EHRs, and they are focused on providing safe patient care with a limited budget. They lack resources for work in standards in healthcare. They need a physician signature for services and a readable patient chart to get services started,” Miner maintains.

"I spoke with a physician recently who was facing a sharp increase in demand for a newly launched telehealth solution. He felt that a cloud faxing technology could absolutely meet his needs for a discharge summary or a doctor's note via cloud fax. His organization needed to move quickly to meet patient demand and not be burdened with the complexities of disparate systems and changing data standards."

With more and more providers turning to telehealth to meet patient demand for services and keep their doors open, cloud faxing can meet their pressing need for timely and accurate patient information. Even those with EHR systems face financial obstacles that prevent them from using modes of health information exchange intended to replace the fax.

"You hear a great deal about health information exchanges and frameworks, but these products are sometimes cost-prohibitive” Miner continues. “While the healthcare industry has ideas about how to push patient information between disparate technology, it still comes back to how cost-effective that method is versus cloud faxing, which is fairly predictable when you know your fax volumes and less costly than getting an HIE connection.”

Efforts to advance interoperability through accepted health IT standards are integral to future advancements in interoperability, but they must not impede the sharing of information in the here and now.

“When all these structures and standards come in the way of innovation at the point of care, cloud faxing will still remain relevant, in my opinion, because it's easy to understand and you can get your business offering off the ground, maintain patient safety and quality of care," says Miner.

Rather than being mutually exclusive, cloud faxing and standards-based health data exchange should work in parallel.

“As a cloud fax organization, we still meet a need for people but are prepared to walk down a digital maturity roadmap with them,” Miner observes. “We should have parallel paths of people trying to work on the standards but not at the expense of enabling care delivery and being able to take care of immediate needs. Cloud fax offers a safe and reliable entry point, providers can manage the immediate needs of their patients and business and plan and partner the work in data taxonomies, architecture, ontologies — the semantics of interoperability platforms.”

Seamless interoperability is the goal of the healthcare community, but the most important piece of the interoperability puzzle today is ensuring the immediate availability of information at the point of care. Reducing complexity for providers is paramount to the task of providing truly patient-centered care. By taking advantage of more robust and secure cloud fax, providers are able to do so today.

See the other articles in this series, 3 Key Pieces to the Interoperability Puzzle:

3 Key Pieces to the Interoperability Puzzle: #1 Query Based Exchange

3 Key Pieces to the Interoperability Puzzle: #2 Directed Exchange

3 Key Pieces to the Interoperability Puzzle: #3 Query-Based Exchange + Directed Exchange

Dig Deeper on Interoperability in healthcare