U.K. National Health Service Signs Fax Machines’ Death Certificate

December 11, 2018, 2:54 PM UTC

As part of overhauling its technology systems, the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. said it will ban fax machines. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has forbid purchase of new fax machines starting in 2019 and ordered complete end of their use by April of the following year.

A report earlier this year by the Royal College of Surgeons pointed to “farcical” use of the devices, according to the Telegraph. At that point, doctors across the NHS used 9,000 of the machines to transmit and receive patient information. The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital NHS Foundation Trust alone had 603 of them.

Fax use has caused problems with the confidentiality of patient information. “We constantly receive faxes meant for other places in error but this is never reported,” said cognitive behavioral therapist Rebecca McIntyre to the BBC.

In frustration, some doctors had turned to sending patient information over the smartphone app WhatsApp.

But others question the wisdom of junking the technology. “So what happens when a computer virus attacks a hospital’s IT infrastructure, as happened recently?” medical worker Tim Owen told the BBC. “During the WannaCry attack of 2017 our ‘out-dated, redundant’ piece of equipment ensured that blood products, not routinely held in our on-site blood bank, could be ordered without delay and therefore not compromising patient safety.”

Fax technology is much older than many realize, the original concept having been invented in 1842 by Alexander Bain in Scotland.

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