Healthcare’s Lipstick on a Pig

Lipstick on a Pig is a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product or person.

At some point in your life, I’m sure you’ve heard the above phrase directed at many different things, most recently I heard it from my father in law when discussing my real estate options in the search for a new home. This was so discouraging because he was right, adding a fresh coat of paint and some well-placed landscaping didn’t change the fact that the plumbing and electric needed a complete overhaul in most of these homes. Dressing something up doesn’t change the bones of a structure, it’s just making it pretty in hopes you’ll overlook the real underlying issues.

Recently in my professional life I’ve made it my mission to reduce faxing in healthcare, in an effort to increase interoperability and care coordination efficiencies. My attempts at conversations about reducing faxing are met with comments like:

‘We send electronic from our EMR’

‘We use electronic fax’

And my all-time favorite, ‘We barely fax at all anymore now that we have an EMR, everything goes electronic’

Here is the truth of the matter: the healthcare industry is still using faxing for 75% of their communications between providers, insurance companies, and other healthcare services.

What do all the below have in common?

They are all ‘lipstick on a pig’ for faxing, because the reality is no matter how you dress a fax up it is always going to be reliant on the phone carriers to deliver your records. There is no such thing as a true electronic fax! Yes, faxing has gotten fancier, and the tools around them have gotten better, but the reliability has taken a nosedive over the years. To bring this full circle, I’m here to tell you that faxing’s plumbing and the electronics need a complete overhaul!

What good is the fanciest fax in the world if, when you hit send you get a busy signal? Or only the first 5 pages of a 20-page fax is delivered? Or worse, you type the wrong fax number and it delivers PHI to the local elementary school’s front desk fax?

I know, I know; you’ll tell me faxing is the easiest way to send documents and all the other ways just create extra work. I ask you to consider how much extra work that fax cost you or your staff…how many follow up phone calls did you have to make to confirm the records or requests were received? Working in the healthcare industry on the provider side, I know all the reasons why faxing is still a thing. I understand change is hard, but we should also understand by now that it’s necessary.

I’ve seen firsthand what it looks like when faxing is reduced, and it is pure magic. In some healthcare communities across Florida, faxing has been cut in half – in fact in some areas by more than half. Faxing has been replaced with two-way electronic communication, users become reliant on a platform known as hMessage. By being a part of the Centralis Healths community, their regional health information exchange, they made the decision to change how they communicated and chose to harness the power of true secure electronic communications that doesn’t require a single phone carrier.

How did we do it? And, how can you?

The first step is to admit you are still just faxing.

And the second is allowing us to process your faxes. From there you have made a choice to start communicating with your referral partners more efficiently. We will work to connect your community, and before you know it faxes will be converted to hMessages and real healthcare communication can begin.

By faxing with us you’ve made a choice to join our mission to reduce faxing and create a truly connected healthcare community. You’ve said it yourself that you fax because it is easier, so keep faxing, and let us do the hard work of creating the magic behind the scenes.