DirectTrust working on new faxing standard for secure interoperability

DirectTrust has announced that it’s convending what it calls the Interoperable Secure Cloud Fax Consensus Body, with the goal of developing a new standard to enhance and improve the existing security attributes of facsimile-based exchange in healthcare and elsewhere.

The aim is to improve faxing by adding cross-platform and cross-organizational identity assurance, standards-based exchange of metadata and federated standards for security, says DirectTrust.

The standard is meant to enable the industries that still make widespread use of fax communications – one of the biggest of which, of course, is healthcare – to “attain the benefits of modern interoperability frameworks without requiring disruptive and transformative changes to existing workflows and infrastructure.”

As described in ANSI Standard Actions, the Interoperable Secure Cloud Fax standard “defines a proposed American National Standard establishing the protocols and mechanisms to enable the exchange of documents via facsimile across multiple Cloud Fax platforms while providing for enhanced security, identity assurance, and non-repudiation among participants.”

DirectTrust is currently seeking stakeholders to take part in the consensus body – from healthcare providers, but also from payers, government, the consumer sector, social care, IT, telecommunications and others.

The non-profit, vendor-neutral alliance will be holding an information session about the new consensus body on Wednesday, March 6 at 1 p.m. ET. Participants interested in helping with its development and maintenance can register here or reach out to Standards@DirectTrust.org.

Despite previous ambitious calls from CMS to end to physicians’ use of fax machines by 2020 (a due date that has clearly come and gone), and more recent predictions that faxing is on the way out in 2024, use of paper-based information exchange is still widespread and common in healthcare, thanks to old habits, legacy workflows and a sense of trust in the technology.

But there are security risks inherent in fax machines too (and their misuse can lead to HIPAA breaches).

That’s why standards for secure exchange are important, and why Direct Trust – which has worked on many other initiatives around security and interoperability  – is spearheading this effort.

“Faxing continues to be a crucial link in so many workflows in healthcare, from the smallest rural clinic to largest hospital groups, and an Interoperable Secure Cloud Fax Standard will enable communications to be delivered with the security, reliability, and actionability we all expect in modern interoperable solutions,” said Jeffrey Sullivan, CTO of Consensus Cloud Solutions, and chair of DirectTrust’s Interoperable Secure Cloud Fax Workgroup, in a statement announcing the new consensus body.

“We have recently seen that cloud fax can fit into the interoperability ecosystem by enabling broader care setting participation, and we think that enhanced security and identity assurance can accelerate acceptance across healthcare,” said DirectTrust President and CEO Scott Stuewe in a statement.

“If the cloud fax sector can come together to develop a technical standard to deliver this added value, there is the potential we can do for fax what the Direct Standard did for email in healthcare communication. Five cloud fax vendors participated in initial discussions around this possibility for a Standard, and unanimously agreed there is potential here. We are excited to expand the group of participants in the conversation through the launch of this new ANSI Standards Development effort.”

Mike Miliard is executive editor of Healthcare IT News
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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