September 23rd 2018
This week research by the Royal College of Surgeons found NHS hospitals trusts remained heavily reliant on fax machines – with more than 8000 machines still in use in England – prompting calls to modernise the IT infrastructure of the health service. Chief digital and information officer at The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Richard Corbridge said the NHS could not “afford to continue living in the dark ages”, and New Zealand risked falling into the same trap.
Corbridge is spearheading the ‘Axe the Fax’ campaign at The Leeds Hospital Trust — pledging to remove almost all its “antiquated” fax machines by 2019.
The sectors’ reliance on fax machines presents multiple shortfalls, chief executive of health IT company Celo, Steve Vlok said. First, “it’s just a number, it’s very easy to put the wrong number in”. If you get the number wrong, sensitive files can go to anyone. Even if it reaches the right person there’s no traceability, as a fax number goes to a device not an individual. Documents just sit in the tray waiting to be picked up, which is not ideal if its an urgent lab result or referral, Vlok said. “You don’t know who has read it, if they’ve read it, what they’ve done with it…” It also took away from time spent with patients – uploading, scanning, faxing and filing a document was “time wasted” – and having those documents sitting around was “not the best way to store confidential information”.