To many of us, the fax machine might be viewed as an ancient and obsolete piece of machinery with no role in the modern workplace. So, it may surprise you to hear that there are approximately 46 million fax machines in use around the world, supporting critical business processes. While many fax machines are gathering dust in the corner of an office, many others are in regular use supporting a valuable communication channel. It is estimated that around 17 billion documents are transmitted by fax machine each year.
Where are all these fax machines being used? One major area is the healthcare sector, where fax machines have long been used as a method of sharing medical records. Although contemporary medical practices and procedures are highly advanced, the use of fax machines persists. In the US, it is estimated that 75% of medical communications are done through fax. This is partly due to habit. More pressingly, it is important in meeting requirements around patient confidentiality.
As fax machines work on telephone lines and can bypass the Internet, faxed documents cannot be hacked in the same way as emails. Of course there are other security risks with faxing. For example, a fax could be sent to the wrong number or be picked up by the wrong person. Despite these risks, faxing is still regarded as a trusted communication method. In fact, many compliance regulations and government standards explicitly mention fax as a preferred method for securely sending sensitive data. Faxing automatically creates a hard copy of a document, and the timestamps and delivery confirmations included on every fax communication create an audit trail. For this reason, faxed documents are used in clinical trials and in other highly regulated activities in the pharmaceuticals industry and government bodies.
The legal profession is another area where faxed documents are still routinely used. In certain legal situations, only physical copies of documents are accepted – that means documents delivered by hand or by fax. Although digital signatures are now widely accepted, many legal professionals prefer to use faxed signatures, which have been legally accepted since the late 1980s, to avoid any potential doubt or delay. An added bonus is that fax machines automatically add the date and time of transmission to each document and provide a delivery confirmation, which can be important in legal interactions.
Faxes can be used where Internet coverage is poor or unreliable, and provide a cheap fallback communication option when other technologies fail. In 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a major hacking attack, which left employees unable to access their computers. Confidential data was also stolen, including new and unreleased films. The company had to rely on phone calls, hand-delivered letters, and handwritten fax messages until the IT issues were resolved. Sony’s CEO, Michael Lynton, subsequently stated that he continues to use faxes daily for sending confidential information. Fax usage is extremely common in Japan. According to This Week in Asia, almost every office and one in three households in Japan still have fax machines. There was a recent social media storm in Japan when a doctor revealed that hospitals are legally required to complete handwritten paperwork on Covid-19 cases and send them by fax to public health centres for compiling statistics.
The fax machine is proving to be surprisingly resilient in maintaining a role in the modern communications landscape. Jonathan Coopersmith, Professor of History at Texas A&M University and author of the book Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine, suggests that fax usage will continue for years to come in circles that need valid signatures and safe information transfer. Consequently, communications managers may want to consider including fax numbers in their overall quality control plan and strategy. The Spearline call monitoring and testing platform allows you to monitor all of your important numbers through a single dashboard – toll and toll free, landline, mobile, and fax. Spearline is cloud-based, which means no physical infrastructure is required at your end, and provides worldwide coverage with a presence in over 60 countries.
Consequently organisations which have key business processes built on fax communications will want to consider including fax numbers in their overall quality control plan and strategy. Spearline provides quality assurance tools for business communication services, allowing you to proactively manage your inbound and outbound voice, SMS and Fax services. Spearline is cloud based , which means no physical infrastructure is required at your end, and provides worldwide coverage with a presence in over 70 countries.
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Spearline is a technology company that proactively tests toll and toll-free numbers for connectivity, audio quality, and more, globally. It enables organizations to provide uninterrupted services to customers around the world. For further information, or if you have any further questions please get in touch with us.