Saturday, April 16, 2011

The HITECH Act, EHR and Meaningful Use of Your Fax Machine

Author: Tim Kinsman

As you implement your EHR system you will notice that the fax machines, on which you have relied, don’t fit into your computerized processes. Data from your EHR system must be printed before you can stack the pages on your fax machine. Then you shred the sent pages. Pages you receive on your fax machine (more ink and paper) can’t be part of an electronic record keeping system until you use a scanner to convert these pages to digital format, before shredding them.

“Fax servers” (computers that send and receive faxes) provide a HIPPA compliant bridge between the paper and digital worlds. At the computer from which you access your EHR system, you can send electronic health records, reports and prescriptions by phone lines or the Internet (fax over IP) to anyone, regardless of their EHR/EMR usage. Your received faxes are saved to disk as electronic image files. No printing, scanning, filing or shredding is required.

This article lists fax server applications implemented at medical offices. In addition to the benefits of “desktop faxing” described above, fax servers can be customized to automate the sending and receiving of electronic documents.

• With Terminal Services access to the fax server, physicians access, update and fax medical records and reports from their home, office or examining room computers. The clinician simply prints from the EHR program to the fax server printer and selects a recipient’s name from a list. A previously selected cover page is automatically added to the fax.
One employee reviews all received faxes and forwards all or parts of faxes to mail boxes on the intended recipient’s workstations.

• At another office, all received faxes are converted to PDFs, which are copied to disk and sent to an employee as e-mail attachments. Using Outlook, this employee forwards these faxes to the intended recipient’s e-mail addressees. They can also query the Fax Manager program to confirm that faxes have been received.

• When some physicians wanted to send faxed reports, while others preferred e-mail delivery, the fax server was set to determine physician preference before sending reports as fax or e-mail.

• A fax server at a teleradiology service receives faxes from and provides overnight radiology reports to over 700 doctors. Radiologist can send and view received faxes at any Internet connected computer, thus expediting diagnosis, patient admittance and follow-up appointments.

• By viewing the fax server’s log of received faxes, hospital personnel can quickly and easily verify that faxes have been received from requesting physicians’ offices. Received faxes are printed to local secure printers and delivered to the intended recipient’s e-mail accounts.

• A provider of medical imaging services, with eight facilities, receives over 700 faxed requests for services each day. All received faxes are saved to the same directory, in PDF format. The file name includes the date and time when the fax was received. No patient information is lost.

• Hospital administrators were printing and mailing reports, with no way to confirm receipt. Their fax server automated the creation and delivery of individualized reports to multiple recipients, with e-mail notification of unsuccessful transmissions.

• A hospital had been scanning pharmacy orders, received on fax machines, into their document management system. Their fax server now separates documents contained within a received fax transmission and converts these fax images to PDF files, which it routes to e-mail, printers and their document management system.

Here’s a common sense Meaningful Use criterion: If your fax machine is keeping paper in your “paperless EHR” system, you should consider optimizing your EHR implementation with a fax server. Fax servers often include customizations and integration with existing systems. Don’t settle for a fax server that doesn’t meet all of your needs.


To learn more about the advantages of Internet faxing and what this requires of your network, visit See for more medical applications of fax server technology.

About the author:

Tim Kinsman has worked in software documentation, support, and training for twenty-three years. For the last seven years, Tim has specialized in fax automation software implementation for OneTouch Global Technologies, in Newport Beach, California. Tim Is a graduate of the University of Southern California.

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