Pharmacies ordered to get rid of fax machines by end of 2020

A hand pushing start button old fax retro style
Photo credit: Getty

By Katie Scotcher for RNZ

Pharmacies have been given until the end of the year to throw out their old fax machines.

By the end of 2020, the machines used daily by some pharmacists need to be replaced with a secure, digital alternative.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the transition is needed because they are becoming increasingly incompatible with modern technology.

Wellington Pharmacist Angelia Liu uses a fax machine daily to send prescriptions and patient information to other health professionals across the country.

Occasionally, she said, Wellingtonians pop in to take advantage of the rare artifact too.

"People come in all the time and say 'oh, have you got a fax machine?' Sometimes people come in and say 'I need to fax something, can I use your fax machine because we know no one else with a fax machine'."

David McKee, the owner of Kaikōura Pharmacy, uses his fax machine up to 20 times a day.

That number increases when tourists flock to the coastal South Island town in summer, he said.

"A lot of people are away on holiday in Kaikōura, they've run out of their medicines and they need them, so they need to get a prescription.

"They don't go and see the local GP, they phone up their doctor from wherever they are from and get their doctor to send a prescription to us to tell us what the patient needs and of course, that's all being done by fax."

But that will soon all change.

The Pharmacy Guild said all community pharmacies across the country need to replace their fax machines with a secure digital alternative by the end of 2020.

Chief executive Andrew Gaudin said in a statement he was confident the sector will manage.

But McKee questioned why anything needed to change.

"The old way works, there's no problem with it. I know faxes are considered archaic and if it wasn't for medicine and law, the fax machine would've died a natural death 15 years ago. We're the only ones keeping it going.

"But, it works. I don't feel we need to chuck something away that works perfectly well."

In a statement, the MOH said fax machines were still widely used by health agencies, but the older technology was becoming increasingly incompatible with more modern digital communication tools.

In July 2019 it signalled the need to start moving from fax to other secure digital solutions, it said.

Health organisations should be working through the change with IT teams and providers to find appropriate digital solutions, the MOH said.

RNZ

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