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Will Fax Machines Be Relegated to the Dustbin of History?

Will Fax Machines Be Relegated To The Dustbin Of History?

Up until a few months ago, I had this decade-old fax machine sitting in my personal office at home. It was relatively modern – the individual sheet paper type, not the roll style. I just didn’t want to part with it, until one day it fell from my desk and was no more. It was then that it dawned on me I hadn’t used it for years.>

It seems, though, doctors have an even stronger affinity for their fax machines. They still dominate the healthcare authorization landscape as tens of thousands of faxes arrive to plans each day for processing of both pharmacy and medical requests.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seem Verma has a goal of ending the madness. Verma wants the use of electronic submissions and interchanges to replace this reliance on fax machines. Great strides have been made in EMR adoption in both rural and urban areas. But, getting through the complex stages of meaningful use and driving true interoperability at all levels will be the struggle.

CMS, too, is sending signals that while PHI protection is important, the exchange of data among providers and plans is important to gain efficiencies and improve quality. Technology provides unprecedented opportunities to protect data while sharing.

While meaningful use of EMRs and the interoperability push has been slow, it has been taking on steam in various ways:

  • Grants to physicians and other entities to adopt EMRs.
  • The introduction and support of health information exchanges at the regional, state and national level.
  • CMS publication of data it controls.
  • Encouragement by CMS to providers and plans to share data in all lines of business – Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial.
  • Medicare mandates for electronic portal submissions of Part D requests and state mandates requiring pharmacy electronic prior authorization transactions.
  • Adoption and pursuit of HIPAA standards to facilitate care requests, including 270/271 eligibility and 278 authorizations. Admittedly, medical authorizations lag their pharmacy counterparts as the standards are not entirely consistent.

Now, in Medicare, we told you that CMS will allow members to opt in to receive digital fulfillment (see earlier blog here).

So, the push to throw fax machines in the dustbin of history is real. At the same time this worthy goal will be years in the making. Still, plans and providers need to get ready.

Marc Ryan

Marc S. Ryan serves as MedHOK’s Chief Strategy and Compliance Officer. During his career, Marc has served a number of health plans in executive-level regulatory, compliance, business development, and operations roles. He has launched and operated plans with Medicare, Medicaid, Commercial and Exchange lines of business. Marc was the Secretary of Policy and Management and State Budget Director of Connecticut, where he oversaw all aspects of state budgeting and management. In this role, Marc created the state’s Medicaid and SCHIP managed care programs and oversaw its state employee and retiree health plans. He also created the state’s long-term care continuum program. Marc was nominated by then HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to serve on a panel of state program experts to advise CMS on aspects of Medicare Part D implementation. He also was nominated by Florida’s Medicaid Secretary to serve on the state’s Medicaid Reform advisory panel.

Marc graduated cum laude from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service. He received a Master of Public Administration, specializing in local government management and managed healthcare, from the University of New Haven. He was inducted into Sigma Beta Delta, a national honor society for business, management, and administration.

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