The TLDR version of the post below is that faxing may be costing even small single provider practices upwards of $6000 a year between paper, staff, toner, line rental, safe document disposal and other costs. Electronic faxing to your EMR / PM system can not only save you money but free up your staff for other purposes.
Now for the long version…
Fax machines – They should have died out with the advent of email, but like a nasty STD we just can’t seem to get rid of them.
I understand that many medical practices still have fax machines because some
Luddite old school doctors won’t embrace a technology that at least two entire generations have reached adulthood since it’s release. FYI – email is 45 years old this year and AOL customers have heard “Welcome, you’ve got mail” since 1989 (27 years).
Even worse, from my conversations with billing specialists, I understand that some insurance carriers still require the faxing of records and won’t accept email, but let’s be honest – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR USING A FAX MACHINE IN YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE.
If your practice is not on an EHR/PM system and you’re still dealing in paper records – you’re doing your business a tremendous disservice. Not only are you creating more work for your staff which drives up cost, reduces efficiency, increases office space requirements to store records and negatively impacts the patient experience, but you put your patients data at risk every day. I hate to break it to you but there’s no way to restore from paper if it gets destroyed. The patient data in the cloud, or on that off-site backup however….
If your EHR/EMR/PM system doesn’t support fax to email, and doesn’t receive faxes digitally filing them straight into your system for attaching to patient records, then it’s time to consider changing to a system that does.
Faxes get cut off, sometimes don’t come through at all, may get twisted during scanning resulting in a useless fax and are simply slow – very, very slow.
In my experience most of what is faxed to a doctor’s office is unnecessary. Besides the cover sheet, I’ve noticed that a lot of offices simply fax everything they have on a patient when making a referral – I’ve seen faxes over 75 pages long, when only 2 – 5 pages would suffice. These then have to be sorted, the unnecessary pages safely discarded and the rest scanned into an EMR.
I visited a client’s office few weeks ago that already sends all of their faxes electronically but are in the process of moving to a new EMR/PM and will no longer receive legacy faxes – the picture at the top of this post is off all the faxes they received in one morning while the office was closed. I stacked the faxes on top of a ream of paper to give you an idea. Keep in mind that the practice in question is relatively small with only a single physician and one mid-level.
Every medical practice is different which makes it difficult to calculate the amount of money that faxing costs the average practice in the US. However, based on my experience with my clients, it could be costing even single provider practices as much as $6000 a year in hidden expenses. Not only is there line rental, the cost of a fax machine or fax capable printer, toner / ink costs, the cost of paper (which is used both sending and receiving) , the cost for safe compliant shredding and disposal of the faxes, and then there’s the staff hours spent sending, sorting and scanning faxes…
So much wasted time, so much wasted paper, so much money down the toilet.