Complete interoperability of patient data across the healthcare ecosystem has been a goal for longer than we care to mention. The 21st Century Cures Act, passed back in 2016, called for the development of a trusted exchange framework and a common agreement. And that promise of interoperability moved closer to reality earlier this year when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and its Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE), The Sequoia Project, Inc., published the long-awaited Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).
As a result, healthcare entities will soon be able to apply and be designated as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs). QHINs will connect to one another and enable their participants to engage in health information exchange across the country.
TEFCA’s goal is to establish a universal floor for interoperability across the country. The Trusted Exchange Framework is a set of non-binding but foundational principles for health information exchange that allows different health information networks and their users to securely share clinical information with each other – all under commonly agreed-to rules-of-the-road. The Common Agreement supports multiple exchange purposes critical to improving healthcare. This flexible structure allows stakeholders—such as health information networks, ambulatory practices, hospitals, health centers, federal health agencies, public health agencies, and payers—to legally access patient healthcare information through designated QHINS, as outlined by TEFCA.
A combination of technologies that meet health IT standards will certainly be required, which is why digital cloud fax technology (DCFT), such as Consensus’ eFax Corporate® is a natural fit as it helps us get one step closer to interoperability and aligns with the goals of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services to promote quality outcomes, safety, equity, and accessibility for all individuals.
Our cloud fax solution, a digital, secure fax technology, advances interoperability as the obvious next step in the evolution of the paper fax, which most healthcare organizations still use in some form today. In 2019, it was estimated 75 percent of all medical communication occurred via paper fax. Things haven’t changed much since then. In a 2021 interview with Bloomberg Law, ONC’s Steve Posnack revealed that at least 70 percent of healthcare providers were still exchanging medical information by paper fax. With the use of faxing in healthcare holding firm, more organizations are moving to digital cloud fax for its potential to integrate with other interoperability technologies and to decrease the administrative burden on doctors, nurses and other clinicians.
In this final chapter of our series on the five reasons why eFax Corporate is a game changer, we’ll explore DCFT and how it is a major contributing component in the overall progression of healthcare interoperability, plus, it’s a proven technology any healthcare organization can implement almost immediately.
The 411 on Digital Cloud Faxing
For those who may be unfamiliar with the technology, digital cloud-fax is a secure, paperless, cost effective, and proven way to share documents and records in multiple industries, without the use of a fax machine. It is extremely effective for highly regulated industries such as healthcare, because it is HIPAA-compliant, HITRUST CSF® certified, and falls into the Health Information Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) category of “foundational interoperability.”
DCFT enables the majority of providers who already have the technological infrastructure in place to send and receive digital faxes virtually on any online channel, be it email, mobile app, or a secure web-portal. Using any of these options, administrators are able to assign access, controls and permissions to ensure only authorized personnel are able to view sensitive information, while end-to-end encryption ensures data remains secure at all stages (during transmission and in storage). What’s more, audit trails provide details of every fax that is sent or received, with whom, and when – no more wondering whether or not a fax has been received. Due to its simplicity and universal acceptance within healthcare, DCFT is widely used in every setting with particular importance in communities that struggle to afford sophisticated electronic health-record systems, including rural healthcare organizations and financially challenged urban clinics.
The role of DCFT in the interoperability roadmap
Digital cloud faxing significantly improves upon paper faxing processes as follows: paper faxes are physical documents consisting of unstructured data in the form of images. Paper faxes can only be manually added into patient records. And while providers can access and view this data, it is not searchable and cannot be incorporated with other types of digital patient data or aggregate data used in population health and other care initiatives. True interoperability requires digital technology to achieve that goal.
Consensus Clarity helps solve that burden by combining eFax Corporate’s digital cloud faxing technology with natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) to create structured data that can be ingested into a patient’s EHR. The process is no longer about “document” exchange – it is then “data” exchange. Clarity harnesses NLP and AI to improve workflows so that providers can receive data with automatically identified information such as patient demographics and up-to-date clinical information. Clinicians use Clarity with NLP AI to intelligently extract valuable, actionable information from unstructured documents that can help clinicians get the information they need to make faster decisions about patient care and also unlock insights at the population health level. These Consensus technologies can also enhance the speed and accuracy of healthcare reporting, research and safety – and improve all forms of healthcare data exchange processes, including referrals, transitions of care and prior authorizations.
Implementation leads quickly to value
Healthcare organizations can implement Consensus eFax Corporate® and Clarity immediately, allowing for an easy rollout of intuitive cloud technology that doesn’t come with expensive or disruptive implementations. With eFax Corporate’s digital cloud fax technology, providers can send email messages with attachments to other fax services, both digital and physical. These cloud-based services can be hosted onsite in a private cloud or offsite in a fully-hosted environment, with hybrid models also available.
Our cloud fax technology also includes added layers of security to maintain compliance with health data security laws, such as HITRUST CSF® and privacy laws and regulations, such as HIPAA. Additionally, eFax Corporate, helps fill the data-exchange gaps for organizations without an HER or with minimal technology. With this solution, rural and small healthcare providers can transmit high volumes of digital documents via cloud fax as quickly and effectively as large health systems.