Supporters believe cloud faxing is a viable way to exchange data

This past February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule—CMS-9115-P—to support the MyHealthEData initiative to improve patient access and move electronic data exchange and care coordination.

CMS seeks to make data more useful and transferable using secure and standard machine readable formats while reducing burdens on health care providers, complement the goal of achieving healthcare interoperability.

However, faxes remain the most commonly used way to communicate medical information, says John Nebergall, senior vice president and general manager at J2Global, a cloud services and digital media firm.

Nebergall and other legislative advocates have met several times with regulators and lawmakers in Washington to explain cloud fax technology. Despite having communication tools such as electronic transactions, FHIR and Direct secure messaging, traditional fax still tops them all in terms of use, he contends.

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One of the building steps to move away from faxes is a provision in the proposed rule to update the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) to assign unique identifiers to providers and health plans, but under the rule CMS does not recognize a less expensive method of clinical data exchange—the use of digital cloud faxing technology, Nebergall explains. Further, unique identifiers stored in a cloud platform could enable regulators to know which physicians are coordinating with peers to support interoperability and which ones are not.

In educating regulators, Nebergall and colleagues soon found that policymakers had a gap in understanding cloud faxing. The agency initially still believed that traditional faxing was bad, but stakeholders contend that omitting digital cloud fax technology from the new proposed rule would be bad policy because it would disadvantage providers and patients; inhibit the secure exchange of clinical documents; and disproportionately affect rural and underserved urban communities that rely on low-cost methods to share health data securely.

Nebergall believes that cloud faxing fits into existing workflows in offices and eliminates working on a fax machine, and it also eliminates the cost of a phone line, toner and paper, with documented cost savings from the first day. They also showed CMS how to verify phone numbers with cloud faxing.

Cloud fax healthcare stakeholders now are planning additional trips to Washington to continue conversations and next moves to integrate cloud faxing into workflows.

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