10 votes

The Fax Is Not Yet Obsolete

4 comments

  1. [3]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    This isn't just a U.S.-specific problem. A lot of medical correspondence here in Australia goes via fax machine, too - and we don't have that law to enforce it. It's just a relic. Emails are...

    According to Vox, one industry analyst estimates that 75 percent all of all medical communications still happen by fax. [...] Part of this has to do with an interpretation of a clause in hipaa, a U.S. health-privacy law, which requires health providers to take reasonable steps to safeguard patient information.

    This isn't just a U.S.-specific problem. A lot of medical correspondence here in Australia goes via fax machine, too - and we don't have that law to enforce it. It's just a relic.

    Fax also allows for interoperability: People with different information-technology systems and software applications can communicate easily, via one uniform technology.

    Emails are extremely interoperable. If one must send an image of a written document, it could be scanned and emailed.

    one reason hospitals cited for their continued dependency was security: Many believed that hacking computer systems were easier to hack than fax machines—and that computer hacks were more damaging.

    They're not alone.

    One solution to faxing medical information between GPs' offices is to have everyone's medical information stored in a central database called My Health Record, which will become the de facto system for everyone from next February (after the government extended the opt-out period from last week). And, because noone trusts the government to keep their data safe, over a million Aussies have already opted out of having a My Health Record.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      DanBC
      Link Parent
      Everyone misses the real reason for continued fax use (which is only partly about security): all the failure modes are well known and it's obvious when a fax fails to send. If there's any problem...

      Everyone misses the real reason for continued fax use (which is only partly about security): all the failure modes are well known and it's obvious when a fax fails to send.

      If there's any problem with the target machine the failure is obvious to the sender. We can't say that about email which can silently fail for any number of reasons.

      This (knowing when it fails) is crucial when you're sending a safety critical referral such as a GP referring a suicidal patient to a crisis team.

      But this also means that continued use of fax is terrible, because a lot of them are sent over email to fax gateways, so we get all the problems of fax combined with all the problems of email.

      3 votes
      1. Greg
        Link Parent
        It might be easier to confirm that the machine received the message, but I'd think that a direct reply is still the only way to be sure that an actual person (especially the correct person)...

        It might be easier to confirm that the machine received the message, but I'd think that a direct reply is still the only way to be sure that an actual person (especially the correct person) received it.

        It's an interesting one - I used to be firmly of the opinion that "fax machines antiquated and pointless", and the technologist in me still agrees: sending unencrypted data over public phone lines in order to deliver a low-resolution hard copy to a machine that's almost certainly in a semi-public space seems insane compared to properly encrypted email sent directly to a specific person's device.

        But then the pragmatist in me says that tapping a phone line requires physical access, as does stealing paper - and people tend to have at least something of an understanding of physical security (although clipboard and hi-vis jacket still work better than they should). The words "properly encrypted" are key to securing the email solution, and often users simply can't be trusted to follow procedure there. And if there is any breach, downloading everything past-and-future from a server is often as easy as downloading a single file.

        1 vote
  2. BlackLedger
    Link
    Without it, how could I learn about Noah's Wet Basement solution?

    Without it, how could I learn about Noah's Wet Basement solution?