FAX is Old School: Do you Really Need FAX for HIPAA?

Published: December 9th, 2013

HIPAA FAXGo back in time 10 years.  Every doctor’s office and small business had one or more FAX machines for sending documents and pictures back and forth.  It was essential technology that became ingrained into business processes through constant, repetitive use.  Everyone knows how to use a FAX machine, even the most technologically challenged staff member.

Fast forward to now:

  1. Fax Machines have changed.  They are now all-in-one devices that scan, print, copy, send files to your computer, and more.  The “FAX” ability is now just a minor extra feature.
  2. HIPAA has arrived and evolved.  It used to be that sending patient (ePHI) data via FAX was the norm.  Now, it is perilous to send such private data over regular FAX lines, as it is easy for that process to break down and violate HIPAA.  See: is a FAX document HIPAA-Secure?
  3. Everyone has a computer or tablet. Most doctor and staff member have access to email, a HIPAA-secured computer or tablet, and familiarity with how to use them … and have been trained on best practices via the required HIPAA security training that everyone has to have now-a-days.
  4. Paperless offices. Workplaces have or are evolving to become paperless — everything is stored electronically.  Regular FAXes are often disdained in favor or email; when regular FAXes do arrive, they are often scanned to electronic files and then destroyed.
  5. Low resolution. Faxes are low-resolution.  They are slow and they do not contain a great amount of detail.  They are not great for sending anything graphical.

Struggling to hold on to FAX

FAXing is “the way things are done”.  At least, that is what many people think as that is what they are used to from times past.  So they feel the need to have FAX ability on hand, in a HIPAA-compliant way.  Its a square peg in a round hole issue.

Folks end up finding some service, like eFax Corporate®, that is expensive and which provides HIPAA FAX and using that.  But what do most of those services actually do?

  1. You scan the documents into your computer
  2. You send them electronically to their service
  3. The recipient gets a notice that the FAX is waiting
  4. The recipient picks up the document from the FAX provider’s secure web site

Can you tell me where “FAX” is actually part of that solution?  Its not there at all… except maybe to use your FAX machine as a scanner.  If the documents were actually FAXed normally, there are lots of privacy pitfalls … so even secure FAX companies try to avoid you doing that.

Secure FAX is SecureLine Escrow

The secure FAX solution above is doing is essentially the same thing as LuxSci’s SecureLine Escrow service:

  1. You send a secure email to any recipient email address, with whatever attachments you need
  2. That is securely saved at LuxSci
  3. The recipient gets a notification email message
  4. The recipient logs into a free secure portal to pick up the secure message
  5. The recipient can reply securely back.

Plus, LuxSci’s HIPAA-compliant SecureLine service

  1. Works from our web interface or your email program
  2. Works with any recipient who has email
  3. Has other methods for securing your data to the recipient (some more user friendly, some more secure … its your choice)
  4. Integrates with your regular email usage

If you have a scanner and a HIPAA-compliant email service, then you can perform all of the same actions that HIPAA-compliant FAX allows, with the added benefit of:

  1. Being able to send any kind of file (even very high resolution color images)
  2. Being able to send large files
  3. Being able to communicate securely with anyone that has an email address
  4. Not needing to use separate systems for FAX and email
  5. Your email archival solution automatically archives things that you would have previously sent over FAX (and which thus may not have been archived).
  6. You do not have to hope that the privacy pitfalls involved in use of regular FAX do not impact you.  A HIPAA security officer would not want that ambiguity.

So, next time you think about your FAX situation, think about dropping the FAX phone line, make sure you have a good scanner, and a solid HIPAA compliant email solution.  You will have just simplified your office and improved its security … and being more secure and more simple at the same time is not usually possible.  So relish your accomplishment.

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