Ah, the slighted fax machine. Still with us but under constant and relentless attack to get moved to the pile of obsolete technology along with the typewriter, the Walkman, floppy disks, dial up modems, rotary phones, the phone book, VHS tapes and the Blackberry.
We however, beg to differ. Here is our short but compelling list of why the fax machine should stay in use in the medical industry forever.
- No passwords to remember. Just put the referral in the machine, dial the receiving clinics number and forget about it. Any one can use it. No training required.
- Reliability. How do you know that the fax got received by the specialist? A unique feature to the fax machine is that old “connecting and sending buzz.” It’s the end of the day, one more referral to send. Dial the number (make sure you dial carefully) and wait for that old familiar shriek. You’re connected. Great, go home, walk the dog and forget about it.
- Built in memory. Yes, that’s right. A lot of people forget about this, but every fax machine has built in memory. So, if you need to reprint or resend a referral, simply go into the memory (no password required) and follow the instructions. Super easy. Oh, if you are upgrading your fax machine don’t forget to clear the memory before you send it to the recycling company.
- Managing received referrals. Again, no training required. Simply grab the faxes off the machine, go through the paper, sort accordingly and distribute by hand. What could be easier? Get them off your plate and onto someone else’s. Need to share, simply reprint from the memory in the fax machine or throw them onto the photo copier. Yes, paper costs can add up, but it’s nice having something tangible to look at. Toner costs have risen for sure but in the grand scheme of things what’s a few hundred bucks a year? A note on sharing, you can fax between offices and clinics easily.
- Dedicated Fax line. No need to worry about the wi-fi connection. You can always send or receive a fax on your dedicated line. It’s not that expensive and super reliable. Right?
- Privacy. Okay, this one is a bit of a challenge. I mean there’s the fax machine sitting on the counter or receptionist desk. How do you make sure that only the right people see the referrals? Well, that’s up to you. Make sure your staff know how important and sensitive this information is. Especially that temp receptionist. Put in place policies and procedures that everyone understands and follows. Make sure Monday morning that stack of referrals that came in over the weekend is dealt with immediately. You should also instruct your cleaning company that if there are any papers on the floor or in the garbage that they are for qualified staff only. Oh, maybe you want to think about hiring a shredding company? They aren’t that expensive. Privacy is your responsibility, so make the effort.
So, here’s the last point and perhaps the most important. What if the wrong number is dialed? That’s easy. Set up a protocol whereby someone in your office is charged with confirming receipt of all referrals. It’s just a matter of process. Remember you are dealing with very sensitive information and you have responsibilities under the privacy act and to your patients. You need to make sure that their referral has been received and dealt with. It’s really about peace of mind.
Long live the fax. Or check out ezReferral, a simple, elegant system for managing medical referrals.