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Why Healthcare Must Address Legacy Communications Infrastructure

The expiration of price protections for analog communications infrastructure should prompt healthcare organizations to invest in changes to their fax devices and capabilities.

An important regulatory deadline passed earlier this month that has financial and operational implications for healthcare organizations still relying on legacy analog infrastructure for communications.

On August 2, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) brought an end to longstanding regulation stipulating that local phone companies — known as local exchange carriers (LECs) — cap their prices for plain old telephone service (POTS).

“The communications marketplace has transformed over the past twenty years, with consumers migrating away from plain old telephone service provided over copper wires by their local telephone company toward newer, any-distance voice services provided over next-generation,” the agency stated.

“Rather than providing a foothold for new entrants into the voice marketplace, these decades-old requirements have become a vice, trapping incumbent LECs into preserving and prolonging dependence on outdated technologies and services and artificially delaying the migration tonext-generation networks and services that benefit American consumers and businesses.”

At the time, the federal agency provided a three-year transition period that came to an end earlier this month as part of FCC-19-72A1.

The decades-old regulation proved effective in driving down reliance on POTS and interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connections. Between 2008 and 2017, residential use of these services fell by 71% and business use by 49%. What’s more, incumbent LECs saw precipitous drop-offs specifically in their wired connections for residential and business connections over the same period: 74% to 48% for the former and 70% to 43% for the latter.

While the telecommunications industry and regulation have made great strides to transition customers from analog to digital communications systems, millions of end-users still rely on POTS infrastructure. An FCC study released this month found that 37 million end-users still relied on this technology and, therefore, now face the possibility of rising prices and declining support.

Potential impact on healthcare organizations

POTS are commonly used to support mission-critical business, one of which is heavily favored and used by healthcare organizations to share protected health information and other sensitive data: fax devices. Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 75% of all medical communication occurred using fax devices.

“Phone companies have been working to eliminate POTS lines and infrastructure given the high and rising costs of the pre-existing mandate,” says Consensus Cloud Solutions Global Chief Marketing Officer Bevey Miner.

“To be clear, the FCC has not ordered the complete decommissioning of these lines. Instead, the federal agency removed the price cap, which is still a significant decision considering that the telecoms companies could charge thousands of dollars for services that used to cost less than a hundred dollars a month.”

The writing is clearly on the wall for POTS services and their customers. As a result, organizations relying on these services need to shift their thinking.

“Resistance to adopting modern communication platforms is going to prove costly financially as well as operationally,” Miner explains. “Traditionally carriers — Verizon, AT&T, etc. — are unlikely to dedicate resources to managing the infrastructure and responding to outages. Likewise, legacy devices requiring POTS lines to function lack the plug-and-play capabilities to support a transition to VoIP and the like.”

According to Miner, organizations with a heavy fax footprint, especially providers, need to consider a new strategy for their communications platforms, as evidenced by the emergency of unified communication teams.

“Organizations are building these teams internally,” she says. “They are looking more holistically at their infrastructure and placing greater emphasis on how various systems and services interoperate. This has given rise to conversations about application programming interfaces and plug-and-plug functionality.”

Rather than consider point solutions to extend the life of legacy solutions, laggards in adopting modern communications platforms now have the opportunity to play catch up in the cloud.

“A cloud-based ecosystem ensures that organizations are no longer beholden to copper wires and also avoids the pitfalls with maintaining on-premise servers for communication generally and fax specifically. A true cloud solution allows organizations to have greater flexibility as well as increased agility in terms of plug-and-play. This is an evolving industry. When you think about moving to what new means in this industry, you need to move to the cloud,” Miner emphasizes.

The challenge for organizations making the leap from analog to the cloud is demonstrating to leadership the benefits beyond simply reliability and cost. The transition truly positions an organization for the future, allowing new and emerging technology and standards to be integrated more seamlessly into its overall IT infrastructure. Considering that digital is the new standard for business, healthcare facilities still relying on outdated infrastructure have an opportunity to avoid unnecessary costs and improve their communications operations at the same time.


About Consensus Cloud Solutions, Inc.

Consensus Cloud Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ: CCSI) is a global leader of digital technology for secure information transport. The company leverages its technology heritage to provide secure solutions that transform simple digital documents into actionable information, including advanced healthcare standards HL7 and FHIR for secure data exchange. Consensus offers eFax Corporate, a leading global cloud faxing solution; Consensus Signal for automatic real-time healthcare communications; Consensus Clarity, a Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence solution; Consensus Unite and Consensus Harmony interoperability solutions; and jSign for secure digital signatures built on blockchain. For more information about Consensus, visit and follow @ConsensusCS on Twitter.

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