eFax® advocates on Capitol Hill

By John Nebergall

Recently, I had the honor of travelling to Washington D.C. to speak on behalf of a substantive and important policy issue, digital cloud fax technology (DCFT) and interoperability in the health care industry.

Federal officials are on a mission to create a seamless exchange of personal health information (PHI) and electronic health records (EHR).  That’s the layman’s definition of interoperability.

Although I am a layman on Capitol Hill, Consensus Inc (J2), a provider of eFax Cloud Services remains a champion for DCFT.  We are a key player in the field and we used our influence to educate federal officials about an issue that is extremely important to us and to our customers.

Specifically, we were there to speak about a proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

I was able to personally meet with the rule’s author at CMS and ten different congressional offices, including three House members who are also physicians, over the course of two days at the Capitol.

The Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule would make patient data more useful and transferable through open, secure, standardized, and machine-readable formats while reducing restrictive burdens on healthcare providers.

While that is definitely a mouthful, we are in full support.

As the world leader in cloud fax technology and a company that provides secure communications services to healthcare providers in the US, J2 is leading efforts to achieve interoperability, and we have a keen interest in how this new policy from CMS is developed.  The implications are sweeping and we jumped at the chance to participate in the public comment process.

In support of the meetings that we held, we also responded with a formal comment letter advocating for our customers.  We spent time in those meetings educating the administrators and elected officials who are working on the rule by providing specific case studies that highlighted the importance of DCFT in the care delivery system.

All that sounds nice, but you are probably asking, what is all the fuss about?

Here’s the issue:

One of the provisions of the new rule would update the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) — I know, lots of acronyms — which assigns unique identifiers for health care providers and health plans.

We learned that the new policy does not include a provision recognizing the commonly used, least expensive and proven effective method of clinical data exchange.  More specifically, phone numbers for digital cloud fax accounts.  The impact of this omission would be systemic.

J2 believes including digital cloud fax numbers as a valid NPPES address is essential.  We conveyed our concerns to CMS officials and explained the significance of cloud fax technology to the larger drive toward interoperability. 

On the bright side, we were encouraged that the CMS may be looking instead at the diminished role of legacy fax hardware that is not relevant to interoperability.  That means the role of cloud fax technology would be preserved. 

To borrow some sports slang, “we got this.”  And we will stay on it until the proposed rule contains the language that we’d like to see.

I am excited to be returning to Washington D.C. this summer for more talks to educate officials about the value of DCFT in this important push for interoperability.

Stay tuned, and read our online article for more details about the trip and the issue, or listen to the podcasts:

Mr. Fax Goes to Washington: Episode 1 – Going to Washington to advocate DCFT

Mr. Fax Goes to Washington: Episode 2 – An Overview of the Proposed Rule

Mr. Fax Goes to Washington: Episode 3 – DCFT as an accepted interoperability protocol

Mr. Fax Goes to Washington: Episode 4 – Impact on Rural Providers and Health