Spark

The fax machine isn't dead

Despite being slow, needing paper, and making weird noises, fax machines still have a place in modern industry.

Despite being slow, needing paper, and making weird noises, fax machines still have a place in modern industry

Ron Livingston, David Herman And Ajay Naidu Take Their Ultimate Revenge On Their Dreaded Nemesis, The Office Fax Machine In A Scene Of Twentieth Century Fox New Release "Office Space". (Getty Images)
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Despite being replaced with newer technology in most areas of life, fax machines have been able to stay relevant in areas where there isn't a convenient alternative.

Two areas where fax continues to be used are in the legal profession and in medicine.

"They are moving towards more of an online system but it seems like it's just hard to get rid of fax," said Victoria Hanton, an articling student at HGR Graham Partners in Barrie, Ontario. 

"It's starting to move more digitally but a lot of times you're actually required to be very paper heavy," Hanton said. "There could be a time where that document has to be in court, and you want it to be the most secure and reliable document you could use, so fax would probably always trump email in that case." 

Coopersmith is a professor in the Department of History at Texas A&M, and the author of Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine. (Texas A&M)

"Law tends to be a conservative profession," said Jonathan Coopersmith speaking to Spark host Nora Young. Coopersmith is a professor in the Department of History at Texas A&M, and the author of Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine.

While law's reliance on fax seems to be a product of caution and conservatism, medicine's reliance is often a technological issue.

"The Obama administration made a big push towards digitizing medical records," Coopersmith said. "What the Obama administration did not do is require the firms receiving to build compatible systems. And, as a result, companies making these medical records systems had incentives not to cooperate, not to be compatible with other systems. Which means that, for a lot of medical practices, it's easier to fax medical records than to send them electronically." 

The issue with multiple, incompatible electronic medical record (EMR) platforms is also one faced by Canadian doctors. 

"In the various clinics I've worked in I've had like four different electronic medical record [EMR] platforms that I've had to try to get used to," said Jessie Flear, a family doctor in British Columbia. "And then the specialists operate on a totally different EMR than the family doctors as well."

"It's so strange," Flear said. "In a profession where you think people value efficiency and technology and the cutting edge of a lot of different research, that this is still going on. It's very strange."

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