Considering the potential openness of faxing – the office fax machine may be located where anyone could grab the printed copy – it’s surprising that fax lines are often used for transmitting confidential information, whether that be medical records, legal documents and such.
The problem is that despite being safer than email, confidential facsimiles still need an extra layer of protection in order to prevent unwanted eyes from seeing any information that they shouldn’t. One method of such extra protection is to send the fax with a confidential cover sheet.
The Content and Appearance of a Confidential Cover Sheet
In all honesty, a confidential fax cover sheet does not differ all that much from its everyday counterpart, since both of them contain the most important information such as the respective name and fax number of the sender and recipient, the number of pages the document consists of, and an additional message. The biggest – and most noticeable – difference between the two types of cover sheets is that the confidential cover page has the word ‘Confidential’ written on it in capital letters and in an exceptionally large font.
In addition to that, the confidential cover sheet also contains a disclaimer, the so-called confidentiality statement or notice at the bottom of the page. This is the most important part of a confidential fax cover sheet, since it warns the person that may be about to see the document of the sensitive nature of the facsimile and what should be done in case of a faulty transmission or if the fax doesn’t end up with the intended recipient.
Template for Confidential Fax With Disclaimer
Composing the Confidentiality Statement
The exact wording of the disclaimer is completely up to the sender of the fax, but it’s structure is strictly limited to the following:
- The beginning, where the message should state that the facsimile contains sensitive information that can only be viewed by the intended recipient of the fax.
- The second part of the disclaimer tells anyone who may have received the fax by accident that any disclosure, copying, distribution etc. of the confidential document will result in serious legal consequences.
- Then the fax should instruct accidental recipients to immediately alert the sender via fax or phone and then destroy the received document as soon as possible.
Although it’s not obligatory, the disclaimer could also contain a note on what should be done if the facsimile is sent properly but certain pages are missing due to faulty transmission.
The Question of HIPAA Compliance
When going into details about the safety of online faxing, it is important to know that in order to be eligible to transmit messages containing any type of confidential information via fax, the service providing the dedicated fax line should comply to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To achieve that HIPAA compliance, fax services usually use some form of encryption to make sure that the transmitted document cannot be interpreted should the transmission get intercepted.
However, an encrypted fax transmission is not enough, as certain precautions have to be taken on the sender’s behalf to turn the message truly HIPAA compliant:
- The fax has to be sent from and received by a fax machine – or online fax account – owned by the intended recipient of the message.
- The recipient’s fax number is verified on a regular basis, and if not, this is done by no later than the commencement of the transmission.
- The recipient is warned in advance of the arrival of the confidential facsimile via email or phone call.
- The fax is sent with a confidential fax cover sheet created in a manner similar to the details above.
Confidential Cover Sheets and Online Faxing
Aside from being a convenient hardware-free solution, one of the main reasons why online faxing is thriving is that it’s one of the most secure ways of transmitting confidential documents due to the fact that all messages are sent from and received by a fully encrypted online fax manager. This already makes the majority of online faxing services HIPAA compliant, but the real question is whether these online solutions can create confidential cover sheets as well.
Although most online fax service providers limit the modification of fax cover sheets to the supplied custom message, certain solutions like RingCentral and the downloadable software of eFax and MetroFax allow users to select a confidential fax cover page that can be further customized with the necessary information.