Fax has something going for it: The user interface is real simple. Put the paper in the hopper, touch-tone the number, press the green button, jump back, done.

Compare that to trying to use your pc to scan and email a paper document. On my set up, I have to open up Adobe Acrobat, choose “create pdf from scanner,” choose which scanner, run to the scanner and put the document in the scanner, run back to the pc, hit scan, choose between “flatbed” and “document feeder”, hit a dialog box to choose monocrome resolution, close the dialog box, hit a pulldown menu to choose the paper size, hit scan, then run to the scanner to make sure the document scans.

One is easy. The other isn’t.

So, how about this? A gadget that looks like a fax machine and printer, that plugs into an ethernet port. Let’s have this baby accept dialed numbers and use one of the internet-to-fax services to send plain old faxes. Let’s have it accept incoming documents from the same service and print them. And, let’s have it be able to have “speed dial” settings that transmit the messages directly by internet.

Let’s have this thing cost less than $1000 to buy, and be just as easy to configure as (maybe even easier than) a regular fax machine. We don’t need any more massive hallway copiers that tie to even more gigantic records management systems, with user interfaces that require a masters in computer science to operate. We have those.

The medical information world still has tonnage of faxes. This is because fax-machine to fax-machine transmission (point to point) is considered secure under HIPAA. (Fax to email isn’t secure under most circumstances).

It’s also because many valuable medical records are on paper. This is true notwithstanding all the initiatives for electronic medical records. Doctors want to practice medicine, not keypunch their records.

Health care needs a reliable and affordable next-generation fax solution.