How can our medical system still rely so heavily on the fax machine for crucial communications? What are the modern alternatives?
Prior to the inception of the digital age that brought us the internet, email and cloud computing, the fax machine represented the most secure and efficient method of transferring printed information from one healthcare professional to another. They would take pride of place in our back offices and dispensary benches and require constant supervision – and become a target for sales teams to spam our pharmacies with their latest promotions, including the toner and ink that we’d need to feed them constantly. This spam would relegate important information to the bottom of the document-receiving tray. When receiving multiple pages, sheets of paper were liable to slip o_ the tray and underneath desks and counters. And then there were the annoying phone calls chasing up whether faxes had been sent or indeed received.
The time has come – or some, including this author, would say that it is well overdue – to let the humble fax machine rest in peace. If you are still holding on to one of these relics in your pharmacy, here are five alternatives that will allow you to decommission your machine. Most importantly, when choosing from the following alternatives (you can pick more than one), take the time to discuss best practice communication and collaboration with your local health professionals.
Electronic Faxing (eFax)
Examples: Traitel, Alltel
- You keep your existing fax number.
- You send and receive faxes by email.
- You can create mail filters to highlight important faxes from healthcare partners and delete spam.
- You must adapt workflows to allow your team to be alerted to and view incoming faxes without barriers.
Electronic Medication Management Software
Examples: MPS (HealthStream), Webstercare (MedsComm)
- 2-way electronic communication.
- A centralised record.
- Transparency of actions/information.
- Technology must be implemented effectively in both the pharmacy and residential aged care facility (RACF).
- Your team must be ready and well trained to assist RACF team members in the transition to a new workflow.
My Health Record
Accessible from within most pharmacy dispensary software packages.
- Access to Shared Health Summaries and Hospital Discharge Summaries.
- Access to unified medication information.
- Adoption by pharmacies nationally is strong (81%) but not so for medical and allied health organisations.
- Greater adoption levels will improve access to more of our patients’ meaningful health information.
- Easy for GPs and specialists to send medication summaries and referrals from within their clinical software.
- Information received in the pharmacy is in an editable format (e.g. Word Document) to assist with information logging into software tools.
- Unless investing in additional clinical software which is integrated with Argus, you must adapt workflows to check your ‘Argus Incoming’ folder (it usually lives on one central personal computer, but can be shared to other workstations) at least once daily or more frequently as required.
- Great for collaboration with other health professionals involved in coordinating patient team care plans.
- Provides a full overview of all patient care plan documents and communications.
- Restricted to use in patients receiving team care plans.
Robert Sztar MPS is a pharmacist, pharmacy owner and the founder of Pharmactive.
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