Healthcare runs on fax. Depending on the crowd, it may draw sighs of frustration, but fax is a vital tool in an industry that demands secure information exchange. Despite many efforts over the years to eliminate it, fax persists. As one of the only genuinely secure, affordable, and seamlessly compatible tools for information exchange, it’s no wonder that “axing the fax” isn’t as easy as the marketing campaigns suggest.
Part of the challenge is to change its perception: from the outdated fax machine that comes to everyone’s mind to the enabled document delivery over a secure network that seamlessly triggers intelligent workflows that is available with modern fax solutions. Scott Lundstrom has seen technology transform healthcare throughout his career as an analyst, CIO, and VP of Product Management. We caught up with him to discuss the future of fax in healthcare and its role in improving patient experience.
What’s your professional background, and how did you come to work at OpenTextTM?
I started my career as a software developer back in the microcomputer days. I wrote a lot of commercial code and became a database developer for Oracle. I then moved into an analyst role in advanced manufacturing research, specializing in regulated industries like aerospace and life sciences. I helped develop the SCOR model – a business process model for supply chain that’s still widely used. I founded IDC’s healthcare research group 15 years ago. I held AI, SaaS, and cloud positions before coming to OpenText for a global Senior Industry Strategist role supporting healthcare, consumer goods, and retail.
What changes in information management and intelligent workflows have you seen over your career?
Early workflow systems date back to the 1990s: fragile, point-to-point, and always bespoke. What’s changed is the ability to capture and share aggregate information at scale –cost-effectively and turn content into data. Fax is an essential gateway. I often talk about omnichannel capture: fax is a vital component. Fax could mean many things in healthcare: letters, paper medical files, product and pharmaceutical specifications, safety data sheets, clinical pharmacy records, lab orders, and results. All communication happens on a variety of mediums. Fax is prevalent, and fax is growing. It scales well, is robust and has direct support under HIPAA as a protected technology. The thing that’s changed most is the ability to turn disparate content into data and actionable information. It’s much more than grabbing a piece of content and putting it into a repository.
Why is fax so persistent in healthcare despite repeated mandates to ‘axe the fax’?
It’s inexpensive, scalable, and HIPAA compliant. Fax is a disparaged technology, but impressions are deceiving. Fax volumes are growing. Fax is very affordable and robust. It’s increasingly highly digital and a cloud-based communications technology that’s very secure. It’s an encrypted, point-to-point, low-latency way of sharing information.
What trends do you see shaping the future of fax in healthcare?
Capture is an area of fax that’s exciting. It’s recognizing the data encoded in bits – a letter of medical necessity, a physician order – routing and placing the data where it will provide the most value to the patient and the router. That could look like escalating a situation to a case manager in a chronic disease management program, promoting ongoing communication, or proactively getting a patient into an office before a condition develops. It’s a shift to think about fax not as documents but as data to be captured and information to be utilized. You can begin to think about what ought to be an automated process driven by data.
What does it mean to make better use of data in healthcare?
All data tells a story. Drawing insights in this context can help us tackle broader industry issues—physician burnout and patient churn. Patients and members are also consumers with other digital interactions in their lives. They begin to hold healthcare up to that standard. Healthcare procedures are often paper-based processes. Information sits in a queue for a long time. Look at the image and enter data into an information management system. Look at an image and enter data into a scheduling system. With capture and integration, modern solutions can recognize things in seconds that might have sat in a queue for a day. An investigator could look at an authorization in real-time. Treatment could be accelerated; patients could access the care they need more quickly. All of this automation and acceleration adds up to a much better patient experience than what’s provided on legacy systems. Ultimately, patients notice. Patients are fickle, and healthcare providers deal with churn. Automation also helps improve the patient admission process, build loyalty, and cultivate engagement and trust. This can create real improvements in the outcome of the business overall.