Coupon Chile did some research about fax machines and found that there are 46.3 million of them around the world, 17.4 million in the United States. The total faxes sent each year is 16.9 billion, representing 853 miles high of paper, which equates to 2 million trees taken down every year. The fax machine and the Internet have something in common – they both provide integration for incompatible data. Anybody can send anybody a fax and know that they will be able to read it (or have it translated). The Internet, likewise, allows anyone with a browser to be able to connect to any server and retrieve information, regardless of what kind of server contains the information. In effect the Internet provides integration that removes any incompatibilities. If the Internet had arrived sooner, there would have been no need for fax machines. The fax machine has seen a steady decline in usage throughout the business community, but not in healthcare.
Jeff Tangney, founder of Epocrates, said that “fax machines are the lingua franca of healthcare.” Faxing is ingrained in the workflow of physicians. Tangney said, “it’s still an industry that runs by and large by the fax machine”. Healthcare is making electronic progress in some areas. For example, e-prescribing is a wonderful application that improves patient safety and streamlines the process of getting a prescription from the doctor to medication in your hands. However, it doesn’t always work that way.
Millions of prescriptions are handled by specialty pharmacies operated by all the major pharmacy companies. When a physician completes an online e-script to a specialty pharmacy, the e-script is converted to a fax. When the specialty pharmacy receives the fax, someone manually keys it into their system. It usually takes an extra day for an e-script to be filled in this manner. While healthcare is making great strides in adopting the Internet, they have a long way to go. Without the fax machine, healthcare would come to a screeching halt.