British move to ban faxing in healthcare
December 19, 2018
LONDON, UK – As part of overhauling its technology systems, the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. said it will ban fax machines. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) has forbid purchase of new fax machines starting in 2019 and ordered complete end of their use by April of the following year.
A report earlier this year by the Royal College of Surgeons pointed to “farcical” use of the devices, according to the Telegraph. At that point, doctors across the NHS used 9,000 of the machines to transmit and receive patient information. The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital NHS Foundation Trust alone had 603 of them.
Mr. Hancock said, “Because I love the NHS, I want to bring it into the 21st century and use the very best technology available. We’ve got to get the basics right, like having computers that work and getting rid of the archaic fax machines still used across the NHS when everywhere else got rid of them years ago.”
He added, “I am instructing the NHS to stop buying fax machines and I’m setting a deadline for getting rid of them altogether. Email is much more secure and miles more effective than fax machines. The NHS can be the best in the world – and we can start with getting rid of fax machines.”
Fax use has caused problems with the confidentiality of patient information. “We constantly receive faxes meant for other places in error but this is never reported,” said cognitive behavioral therapist Rebecca McIntyre to the BBC.
In frustration, some doctors had turned to sending patient information over the smartphone app WhatsApp.
But others question the wisdom of junking the technology. “So what happens when a computer virus attacks a hospital’s IT infrastructure, as happened recently?” medical worker Tim Owen told the BBC. “During the WannaCry attack of 2017 our ‘outdated, redundant’ piece of equipment ensured that blood products, not routinely held in our on-site blood bank, could be ordered without delay and therefore not compromising patient safety.”
Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons Commission on the Future of Surgery, said: “Most other organisations scrapped fax machines in the early 2000s and it is high time the NHS caught up. The RCS supports the ban on fax machines that will come into place in March 2020.”