Healthcare group heals Fax woes

The fax is far from dead for Melbourne-based Unified Healthcare Group (UHG) which has saved a "bucket load" of administrative and Telco costs by opting for a network and email integrated fax solution.

The privately owned healthcare services provider sends up to 6000 fax pages a day to clients in the corporate, government and financial services sector.

UHG's General Manager (Infrastructure) Jon Urquhart said that five years ago, the group assumed it would be able to use email for various reports and questionnaires, but 99 percent of healthcare providers insisted on using fax, and they still do.

"As we are collecting medical information, the doctor needs to see hard copy evidence that the insurance applicant (their patient) has given us permission. Consequently, even if we wanted to set up a Web site on which the doctor could fill out the questions, they would still need to have the patient-signed authority slip faxed to them for their records," he said.

After investigating auto faxing of electronic documents solutions, UHG chose to install the GFI FAXmaker for Exchange/SMTP, a Windows-based network fax solution that offers email integrated faxing for Exchange Server and SMTP/POP3 server environments. It includes a multi-line fax server, inbound fax routing, print to fax driver for Windows, support for server-side conversion of office documents, and fax management features.

UHG initially installed an 8 line PSTN modem with about 20 users but when volume approached 200 faxes a day, it switched to a primary rate (ISDN Connection) and installed an Eicon 30PRI ISDN Card, taking out a 16 line license with GFI.

"Basically now, we literally just push a button and all the faxes are sent. Without FAXmaker, we'd have to print each page out, walk over to the fax machine, dial the number, and press send. So we are saving a monumental amount of time plus the cost of paper, toner, and device maintenance," Urquhart said.

The new system has also allowed increased efficiency which has helped the business grow, and that in turn has enabled UHG to have increased bargaining power with Telstra and effectively reduce its Telco costs by 20 percent, Urquhart said.

"Looking forward, one of the big ongoing inefficiencies we have is that (for a variety of cultural reasons) every incoming fax is automatically printed out. Our next project is to have incoming faxes auto-routed via email to a particular user who can simply link the document to a case, join multiple faxes together to make the final report and then either fax/ftp/upload the completed report back to the client."

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said the fax machine still has a purpose in organizations, even if small.

"However, its usage is very limited. Most companies still need a fax for the occasional document. Because of its convenience and low cost I think that the fax will still be with us for quite some time. The alternative, of scanning [documents], is more cumbersome," he said.

"But the usage is rather low - I'd estimate around one million enterprise fax machines and services nation wide - so it does not have an enormous impact on the telecoms market overall."

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