The UK’s National Health Service has been ordered to stop buying more fax machines. It also must stop using the machines entirely by April 2020, as part of an effort to modernize the healthcare organization.
More than 9,000 fax machines are in use by the NHS, a July survey found. All will be replaced by email, according to a report from the BBC. The shift, ordered by UK health secretary Matt Hancock, is intended to improve patient safety and make communications more secure.
Rebecca McIntyre, a cognitive behavioral therapist, told the BBC that using fax machines made it difficult to ensure patient’s information was actually sent to the right place, and that it wasn’t being seen by non-authorized people. ”You would not believe the palaver we have in the work place trying to communicate important documents to services (referrals etc),” she said. “We constantly receive faxes meant for other places in error but this is never reported.”
Fax machines have stuck around in a digital age due to legal requirements in the healthcare and legal systems. While only certain kinds of signatures can be accepted over email, fax is a legally-valid method of sending a signed document.
“Most other organisations scrapped fax machines in the early 2000s and it is high time the NHS caught up,” Richard Kerr, chair of the Royal College of Surgeons’ commission on the future of surgery, told the Guardian.