- Universal Acceptance: Faxing is almost universally accepted by insurance companies and dental offices, while some do not accept emails. These fax numbers are also typically easier to locate in business directories.
- Security: Due to the point-to-point nature of fax protocol, attempts to intercept data will typically cause the transmission to fail. Therefore, faxing is generally considered secure and meets HIPAA requirements for electronic transfer of data.
- Legally Binding: The receiving machine must properly acknowledge that a fax was successful. This means that the message can legally be considered received, which is different than most other forms of electronic communication, such as email.
These benefits mean that the capability to fax is still important in the modern orthodontic office, but it does not necessarily mean a fax machine is needed. Fax machines function well, but requires a modest initial cost ($45 to $200+) and the ongoing expense of an additional phone line (~$20/month). Although it is possible to avoid an additional line by attaching a switch to an existing voice line or using a dual ring, these methods are not as consistent as a dedicated line. This option is straightforward, but are there better modern options?
Yes! Moving from traditional faxing to IP faxing (also known as internet faxing or FoIP – Fax over Internet Protocol) offers numerous benefits and less cost! It allows an orthodontic office to remove the extra phone line, get rid of a fax machine, and still utilize all the previously mentioned benefits of faxing. The switch to IP faxing has occurred slowly because previous IP faxing protocols did not interact well with traditional fax lines. However, modern protocols (T.37 for store-and-forwarding or internet faxing, and T.38 for real-time faxing) have greatly improved reliability. Options for moving to IP faxing include purchasing software for a computer or a VoIP server, buying a FoIP/VoIP server, buying an IP fax machine, or using a 3rd party online provider. All these options have certain advantages, but purchasing any equipment or software for the office will incur higher up-front costs and may need ongoing service.
Personally, I feel that most orthodontic offices should consider internet faxing using an online provider. This keeps startup costs low and requires no additional equipment (assuming you already have a computer and internet access). There are a large number of companies to choose between, so I would suggest looking into HIPAA-complaint companies with positive reviews that offer a good price for the volume of faxes sent by your office. Some providers even allow a small amount of online faxing for free (e.g. eFax, faxzero), but some of these accounts may be disabled after 30 days of inactivity. Our office currently maintains a plan for $3.49/month and $0.05 per minute of faxing (Faxage), and our monthly bill has never exceeded $6.00 – much less than the cost of a phone line. For a slightly higher base fee ($6.59/month), some companies offer integration with Dropbox, Outlook, and Google Drive (e.g. Ring Central). Overall, these online services typically offer the following advantages:
- An online portal where all incoming and outgoing faxes are stored.
- Faxing using traditional email with an attachment. (NOTE: this is sent securely from the online service, but will have the limitations of email while being emailed to the service). A receipt is emailed back when the fax is successfully sent.
- The ability to directly save the file to the computer and upload into practice management software without printing, keeping the practice paperless!
- Higher quality images than traditional faxes with the ability to print on any desired printer at your office.
- The ability to use multiple workstations to send and receive faxes.
There are two potential downsides to consider when switching to IP faxing. First, it is very easy to create a fax number, but it may take more work to maintain a current number. Second, these services typically provide T.37 store-and-forwarding faxing – meaning they hold the fax in a queue and it may take 1-2 hours to send. If these concerns are not issues for your practice, consider looking into IP faxing to inexpensively and conveniently handle your faxing needs.