Is the fax machine killing innovation in the health service?

When a piece of technology works does an organisation relax and design systems around it, rather than customers?

In the medical profession Doctors still write letters to each other as a means of referring patients, getting blood results around, etc. These letters are now often sent by fax. This is because it is perceived to be more secure than sending by e-mail. It is also cripplingly slow and inefficient when doctors have digital data in their surgeries which at the press of a button could be sent both to the patient and colleagues.

All of this is done to protect the security of my data. But on balance I value speed of treatment over a belt and braces approach to my data security. Others may take a different view so why doesn’t the health system offer a choice. If you want to opt in to e-communications then you simply tell your GP and they start sending stuff by e-mail . If you are concerned about your data then carry on with letters and faxes.

Given the embededness of the letter/fax combo in the NHS and the understandable reluctance to build any more big national IT systems I am wondering how exactly will the system change, or will we be using faxes forever? One way is to change the rules and invite people to consent to e-mail and enable customers to decide whether speed trumps the perceived security of their data.


About iansthoughts

Chief Operating Officer at DEFRA, and former council Chief Executive. All views expressed are my own and not formal policy of my employers current or past.
This entry was posted in NHS, Risk, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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