Why are we still faxing important things?

Or, anything at all?!

I’m going to apologize in advance, here. This one is more about me having a bit of a moan after a particularly (and needlessly) frustrating shift.
So, why are we still using fax machines? Not sure how to answer the question when companies all appear to have so much money to throw at snazzy ‘technology’ (and yet play pauper during periods of labour contract negotiations?!). Nevertheless, I thought it worth mentioning on here today.

Recently, as I see so often on the weekends at work, I was in the position of having to order medication from the after-hours on-call pharmacy. Byzantine and pedantic requirements to produce pristine and duplicate documentation in order to obtain medications aside, the most frustrating logistical aspect of the process lies in faxing everything over to the other side. Typical problems include:

  • ‘We didn’t get it’;
  • The line is busy;
  • Toner is out;
  • Machine was off… or busted;
  • We ran out of paper and now there are too many back-faxes to sort through;
  • ‘Sorry, we were on the phone; can you please try again?’;
  • You place your phone number and fax number so close together on the face sheet that faxes are mistakenly sent to the phone number;
  • There is a delay between when the fax is sent and when it is received and a further delay for any confirmation of same, and;
  • 2+ pages stick together when faxing multiple documents so that not everything is received properly (and you only find this out when you physically receive the medication, typically just as the pharmacy is about to close for the day).

… to name but a few.

Further, why are we relying on in-person, physical compare-and-contrast strategies when conducting medication reconciliation for residents transitioning from home to care or care to hospital… and back to care? Why aren’t such processes automated with differences highlighted as the questions posed to the attending physician or NP to clarify?
Isn’t technology supposed to make things simpler, safer and save time – especially for frontline clinical staff?! Having to rely on faxing strikes me as the antithesis of this; the last time I worked, I had to re-fax the same thing four times before it satisfied the other party’s needs. Four times. Four. Do you understand how frustrating and how much time that takes away from actually helping the very people you’re there to serve? Surely, there has to be a better solution.

I think I’ve made my point.

The other gripe I wanted to air, when not being flummoxed by a fax machine, was trying to replace staff who call in ‘sick’ – only to then be unable to leave voicemails because they are either not set up or FULL.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have or let my inbox get full (if only I would have that many people calling) – and I certainly wouldn’t let this ever happen if my livelihood depended on being called by work and picking up shifts.

Funny how we’re old school when we should be using the latest, and new-age laissez-faire when we should take a traditional, hard-working approach.
Go figure.

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