Ah, the mixed feelings of watching Ontario’s health-care system attempt to “axe the fax.” It’s like witnessing a long-term relationship coming to a bittersweet end, even though the couple still has an undeniable connection. The Ontario government is determined to phase out fax machines within the next five years, despite the fact that more than 90% of doctors still rely on them. It’s a classic case of being stuck between a rock and a hard place: doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies just can’t seem to quit the humble fax machine.

The convenience of faxing is hard to deny. For many health professionals, it’s a tried and true part of their workflow, as Angeline Ng from the Ontario Pharmacists Association explains. And who can blame them? With a variety of electronic medical record systems that don’t quite mesh, the trusty fax machine bridges the gap, providing a reliable form of communication. Yet, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Dr. Adam Kassam highlights the administrative burden of paper-based faxes, with health-care providers having to re-enter information manually. It seems that as much as they love it, they know it’s time to let go.

As the province aims to transition to all-digital communication, concerns about the cost and security of the new platforms arise. The Information and Privacy Commissioner notes that misdirected faxes are the leading cause of unauthorized disclosure of personal health information in Ontario. This begs the question: Can the health-care system find a new digital partner as loyal and steadfast as the fax machine, or will it be a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: it’s hard to say goodbye to such an iconic companion.


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