A person presses a button on a fax machine and part of the blog title appears – Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange

Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Providers strive to protect patient privacy with secure healthcare faxing and information exchange. Unfortunately, the tool often used for the job is the outdated and unreliable fax machine. According to a national survey of physicians, 63% say they use fax machines as their primary way to communicate with other physicians.

While many would like this technology retired for good, for now it seems the fax machine may continue to be a necessary evil in the industry; therefore, it’s important for healthcare facilities to consider its effect on patient privacy and HIPAA compliance, as well as solutions for ensuring secure healthcare faxing and information exchange.

Security & HIPAA Compliance Issues


Here are just a few ways your fax machines may be putting your facility’s security at risk:

A person presses a button on a fax machine and part of the blog title appears – Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Do you have tools in place that enable secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?

Wrong numbers – Fax machines are not immune to human error. All it takes is for an employee to press one incorrect button, and a patient’s identity and private health information are exposed to a random recipient whose trustworthiness is unknown.  Even if you provide a cover sheet that explains the fax is classified and for a specific recipient, you have no control over the actions of the person on the other end.

Lost or incomplete documents – With numerous, multi-page documents coming in at the same time, pages can get mixed up and sorted into the wrong pile.  Someone without the proper authorization can unintentionally gain access to confidential material, jeopardizing patient privacy.

Physical location – Where do you keep your fax machines?  Have you placed them in busy areas where everyone can easily access them, like many organizations have?  While this may be convenient, anyone could walk by and read, or even steal, sensitive documents.  A fax can also be received outside of regular office hours, when there are even fewer workers around to notice potential theft. 

Physical disposal – Are you certain your staff members dispose of every single sensitive paper document in the proper shred box, and that they are never placed in a regular garbage can? (And how much money are you spending on a HIPAA-compliant document shredding company?)  Additionally, thermal fax machines contain a carbon copy of every fax they’ve ever sent or received.  If this type of machine is not properly discarded, it can end up unsecured in a landfill or sold to anyone who could effortlessly retrieve all the information that ever passed through the device.

Inadequate audit trails – Fax machines can confirm that a document was received by another fax machine, but cannot guarantee that the intended person at that organization picked up the document or that no one else read it. They also don’t keep track of which individual sent each fax.

The Solution for Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange


Fortunately, it is possible to utilize fax communication while also protecting patient privacy and avoiding a HIPAA violation that must be reported, requires you to implement a costly corrective action plan, and could lead to being placed on the CMS compliance watchlist.  Here is how an electronic document management solution can save your facility from the concerns listed above when it comes to secure healthcare faxing and information exchange:

Restricted transmission – Correspondence is limited to only those recipients on your pre-programmed, approved list of destinations; wrong number entries simply don’t happen.

Electronic access – There is no need to worry about physical paperwork disappearing; physician orders and other forms are electronically routed to appropriate departments using paperless workflow for all data. Different authorized departments or users can access the same documents simultaneously, so printing hardcopies is unnecessary.

Encrypted storage – Documents can be indexed for permanent, encrypted storage and future retrieval using the search function; lost orders are eliminated.

Audit trails – HIPAA-compliant audit trails are assigned to each document.

IT systems integration – An electronic document management solution like ActiveXCHANGE can be seamlessly integrated with most existing hospital information systems and technologies, including RightFax.


HIPAA compliance requires healthcare facilities to apply “reasonable safeguards” when communicating about patients’ medical information, which is a bit of a subjective phrase.

Why not eliminate the ambiguity surrounding HIPAA compliance with an electronic document management solution that protects your facility from the above risks and ensures secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?


By Stephanie Salmich

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Interoperability in healthcare is becoming increasingly important to the patient experience, public health, and patient safety.  Patients should be able to trust that when they see multiple providers at various doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and imaging facilities, and other locations, their health information is protected, accessible, and actionable.

Yet, research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that only 26% of hospitals successfully conduct all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

Improving this percentage is absolutely vital to patient safety and public health.  Consider how these two categories of patient safety are affected by inadequate levels of interoperability in healthcare:

Individual Patient Safety


According to the ONC’s study, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care and only 18% reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients.

Tragically, treating a patient without all necessary medical information can result in adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation, preventable pain and suffering, life-threatening medical errors, and even death.

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect patient safety.

At the very least, delays in access to relevant health data mean delays in treatment and extra discomfort, pain, or worry for patients and their family members as they wait.

Public Health & Safety


Public health reporting is critical for preventing/containing outbreaks of disease, preparing for health emergencies, investigating population health trends, educating communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, and informing and monitoring health policies.  Public health reporting, to local, state, and federal organizations like the CDC, is also hindered by poor interoperability in healthcare.

The ONC explains in an Issue Brief that for public health reporting:

“The goal is to move to seamless, real-time or near-real-time bidirectional exchange of data . . . This allows for the most complete and up-to-date record possible.” (p. 4)

The accuracy of public health reporting, and the strength of the health policies created from it, can only be as sound as a system’s interoperability capabilities will allow.

Fortunately, there is technology that can greatly improve individual patient safety and public health by creating true interoperability in healthcare and seamlessly integrating with healthcare IT systems.

This is an ethical issue – if we want to protect the public and patient safety, we must make interoperability in healthcare a top priority.


By Stephanie Salmich

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.

5 Revealing Statistics Concerning the Need for Better Interoperability in Healthcare

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HealthWare Systems Blog

5 Revealing Statistics Concerning the Need for Better Interoperability in Healthcare

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In today’s world, interoperability is more important than ever as patients may see multiple providers or receive care from multiple health systems in order to address a single health issue.  In the interest of increasing patient safety and improving the patient experience, health systems must be able to communicate with one another regarding important patient health information.  Information that one provider sends to another could save a life or, at the very least, take the burden of tracking and providing information off the patient.

Even though the technology exists to meet this need, many hospitals are still struggling with interoperability in healthcare as the following revealing statistics demonstrate.

According to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology concerning non-federal acute care hospitals in the U.S.:

1.  Only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care.

2. Only 18% of hospitals reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients; 35% said they “sometimes” did, 20% said “rarely,” 16% said “never,” and 11% did not know.

The top reasons for rarely or never using electronically received patient health information from outside sources were:  the information is not available in the EHR as part of the clinician’s workflow (53%), it’s difficult to integrate healthcare data in the EHR (45%), the information isn’t always available when needed (40%), and the information is not accessible in a useful format (29%).

3. 55% of hospitals named their exchange partners’ EHR systems’ lack of ability to receive data as a barrier to interoperability.

4. Only 38% of hospitals had the ability to use or integrate healthcare data from outside sources into their own EHRs without manual entry.

5. Only 26% of hospitals conducted all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

The number of hospitals that have achieved interoperability in healthcare is simply too low to guarantee patient safety and the continuity of care that patients deserve.  Improving the patient experience will depend on hospitals’ ability to integrate healthcare data and IT systems with the use of solutions that create complete (sending, receiving, finding, AND integrating/using data), rather than partial, interoperability in healthcare.

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.


By Stephanie Salmich