Written by Alyssa Walker

Loathe to abandon technologies that consistently work, many hospitals in the US still rely on pagers and fax machines to transmit information.

The problem? Millennial doctors don't know how to use them.

Faxes and pagers--which have disappeared from most places--are routinely used in hospitals for several reasons. They're technologies that older doctors understand and can use easily. 

More importantly, faxing a patient's data does not compromise HIPAA, which states that fax machines and the US mail are acceptable methods for doctors to transmit medical records.

Another reason is the healthcare industry's relatively slow speed to digitize records, compared to other sectors.

Until recently, patient medical records were stored on paper. CNBC News reports, "It took a huge investment of federal dollars to incentivize doctors to adopt digital systems, known as electronic medical records. But it remains a challenge for doctors to share patient information, especially with hospitals that use a different electronic medical record vendor."

In the CNBC article, Nate Gross, a physician and the co-founder of Doximity, a start-up that built a product called DocFax that lets doctors send faxes without a physical fax machine, said "Every hospital, no matter how small, has a fax machine, so it's the safest and easiest way to get the information you need." He added, "It will take another decade or two before health care is no longer reliant on the fax machine." 

For medical students and young doctors, it's embarrassing. They have no context for understanding how it works.

While it's unlikely that modern medical education will include lessons in twentieth-century technology, millennial doctors and younger students will have to figure it out because the fax machine isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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