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Contributing Writer · Jul 13, 2011

Does Your Doctor Still Use Fax?

Kill the fax!

In a recent story on iWatch News, reporters Susan Jaffe and Emma Schwartz profile the struggle of medical practices in Ohio in the process of adopting Electronic Medical Records, even as Washington issues incentive cash. The story notes:

“The costs of the systems remain daunting, despite the bonuses, particularly in areas that have been hit hard by an ailing economy. The price tag varies widely depending on the type and size of the medical practice, whether new computers are purchased and the extent of customization, among other things. Software alone can cost from $2,000 to $10,000 per doctor. All told, the cost jumps to about roughly $20,000 per doctor, according to a regional extension center consultant who advises physicians in northeast Ohio. On top of that, manufacturers charge hefty annual fees for technical support and periodic upgrades that together can amount to about 35 percent of the upfront costs.”

I decided to reach out to these practices and introduce them to Practice Fusion. With a bubbly, good-samaritan spirit, I began Googling and dialing furiously – overjoyed with the prospect of sharing this great news. Not only would they be delighted to hear of a EHR option, I thought, but news that they would not need expensive IT support, that enthusiastic account managers and support specialists would walk them through the set-up process and that they would be able to pocket $44,000 in stimulus incentives from the federal government starting this year – the news would surely send them over the moon.

I was able to reach, in person, someone at two of the four practices profiled in the story. One practice manager insisted I send an email to her personal email and that she would forward the information onto the physician. “Does the doctor have an email I can send the information to directly?” “No,” she replied. So I emailed her the information about Practice Fusion’s EHR, and I have not heard from the practice since.

The second practice manager said, “Fax over the relevant information. If we’re interested, we’ll call you back.”

“Fax? I’m going to have figure out how to do that. Um, is there a way for me to email this to you?” I responded, mostly in shock.

“No, fax is the only way to ensure that the doctor will ever see it,” she retorted.

Wow, I thought. Needless to say, I was frustrated and disheartened that I could not directly email either of the physicians, yes, even in the digital age. “How are they going to start using an EHR if they aren’t even emailing or using a computer?” All of the sudden, my spirited attempt at spreading good news quickly became sadness. Practice Fusion has done their part with a lightweight and intuitive EHR system. Now it’s time for doctors to do their part by entering the doors of the digital age. Step one: ditch the fax.

In a Slate Magazine story, Farhad Manjoo notes that faxing is “one of the most expensive, least flexible, and most annoying ways to send documents in the digital age. Everyone knows this—even, I’ll bet, the people who make fax machines.”