General Question

flo's avatar

Is it obvious which is better fax or email for the privacy of medical info?

Asked by flo (11325points) October 2nd, 2017

If the doctor office needs to send some medical info to patients which is better, fax or email?

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7 Answers

janbb's avatar

It depends on where the receiver is. If they work in an office, getting a fax delivered there could really expose their info to whomever gets it from the fax machine. An email would make more sense there. If it is coming to one at home, either way would be private assuming the receiver has their own account.

In any case, the question is a bit moot since fax machines are rarely used any more.

flo's avatar

But how about hacking? Some health institutions are using fax only because of that.

Zaku's avatar

It is possible for someone with knowhow and access to a computer/router along the Internet path from email sender to recipient to read the traffic through it, and email could be intercepted that way. Email is thus a potential risk, though encrypting the email content would help a lot.

flo's avatar

But with the fax,there is no need to encript, and encription would help but it’s not a sure thing.

CWOTUS's avatar

There is no such thing as “a sure thing” when it comes to the transmittal along any public lines of communication. None.

Even the best encryption can fail if the person receiving the information is careless with it OR if the sender (meaning anyone in the physician’s office with access to it, including every low-level clerk) is not as trustworthy or competent as they should be.

Personally, I’m not in favor of “transmitting” sensitive material, anyway. Most banks and credit unions that I’m familiar with these days store account and statement information on their own servers, which are as reliably secure as they can make them – again, there is no perfection. Then the user has to log in with his account information to gain access to the limited information that is available to that account, and everything is done via https:, which is what most commercial sites use.

Except for the fact that most doctors’ offices are not as well-staffed or managed IT-wise as banks and credit unions, there’s no reason why they can’t subscribe to services who manage sensitive / secure information as their business, and handle the flow of information that way.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Fax transmissions are more secure than email. Faxes go over telephone lines that are governed by federal and local laws as well as FCC regulations. Hacking landlines carries far greater penalties than hacking email transmissions.

Protecting personal health information is governed by federal laws and regulations, therefore doctors’ offices and hospitals and other entities guarding personal health information must use the most secure means possible.

I work in healthcare. We can transmit information securely on our internal servers, but we are forbidden from transmitting personal health information over external means on the Internet.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think it matters. A lot of faces are fine through computers now anyway. I get my test results online through an app. Is that totally secure?

I say if there is a test or part of a chart that you would be horrified if the info got out, go to the office yourself and get the info. Otherwise, don’t worry about it and get the info in whatever way is more convenient.

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