The “Cockroach of American Medicine”: Why Has the Fax Machine Persisted?

November 1, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Fax machines have largely been phased out of American society, with one notable exception—the healthcare industry, according to an October 30, 2017, article on Nurses, doctors, and researches all express frustration with faxes, the article said, noting that fax machines are “terrible at sending data" and often result in blurry images or information sent to the wrong place. And yet faxes account for 75% of communication in healthcare facilities, according to the article, which described the long-lived technology as the “cockroach of American medicine." A major reason for the fax machine's prevalence, the article said, is that healthcare facilities do not share digital information with each other enough. This is, in part, because the government offered incentives for digitizing health records, but not for sharing them with other facilities. Competition between electronic health record (EHR) vendors has exacerbated this issue, the article said.

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