The Atlantic – Law and medicine still rely on the device. Maybe they shouldn’t. An Object Lesson.
“…Fax, once at the forefront of communications technologies but now in deep decline, has persisted in many industries. Law-enforcement agencies remain heavily reliant on fax for routine operations, such as bail postings and return of public-records requests. Health care, too, runs largely on fax. Despite attempts to replace it, a mix of regulatory confusion, digital-security concerns, and stubbornness has kept fax machines droning around the world… Doctors rely heavily on faxes in both routine and high-stakes situations. According to Vox, one industry analyst estimates that 75 percent all of all medical communications still happen by fax. Occasionally, news outlets describe this phenomenon, mostly as human-interest stories: “Medical Students Flummoxed by Fax Machines” or “Med Students Are Puzzled When Forced to Use This Ancient Technology.” Despite confusion and frustration, though, the business of faxing continues on. Part of this has to do with an interpretation of a clause in HIPAA, a U.S. health-privacy law, which requires health providers to take reasonable steps to safeguard patient information. Because this rule explicitly mentions fax and not email, some providers interpret the law to mean that records must go by fax.
That habit dies hard. A start-up called PatientBank, which allowed users to share and receive medical records digitally, shut down in January, partly because weaning hospitals from fax proved too difficult. Paul Fletcher-Hill, a PatientBank co-founder, told me that one reason hospitals cited for their continued dependency was security: Many believed that hacking computer systems were easier to hack than fax machines—and that computer hacks were more damaging…”