It might seem like a pointless question - smartphones vs. pagers? Glance down at all the apps and features on your phone. You’ll have 100 reasons why it’s preferable to a little black box that only transmits limited numeric combinations. So why do clinicians across the world still rely on this outdated technology? According to the global research firm Frost & Sullivan, in an article published by the Boston Globe, about 85% of hospitals still rely on pagers. So why didn’t this 1990s relic completely disappear when smartphones rose to power? And why is it time to turn the page on pagers now?
Is the question of smartphones vs. pagers about habit, convenience, or both?
Clinicians are creatures of habit. Much of their training is memorization and practice of various protocols, patterns, and algorithms for treatment. If you’re a newly diagnosed congestive heart failure patient, the course of treatment is pretty laid out for you. A battery of tests, repeat labs, medications, dietary changes; physicians caring for CHF know exactly where to start. While every patient is unique, most disease processes follow a typical path. So, it’s no surprise, and actually a good thing, that clinicians are creatures of habit. You don’t want them wasting time reinventing the wheel with each diagnosis. While pagers were a mainstay in the era of fax machines and floppy disks, they have also quite literally been by the side of these clinicians since medical school.But of course, anyone is willing to change when presented with a better option, right? So why not make the leap to smartphones in their professional lives, as they most likely have in their personal lives?
A small, lightweight device that clips to your belt or waistline of your scrubs is convenient. Even more convenient is how pagers don’t require you to be tethered to a charger. Battery low? Swap them out of any nearby remote. And how about that water resistance? Should it land in water, you need only rinse it off for it to keep working. Yes, some smartphones claim to be water resistant, too. But I assure you, a repeat of this event with your phone would have caused panic. Perhaps that’s because pagers are cheap as well?Healthcare, with its big brick beasts of buildings full of corridors, concrete floors, basements, and walls lined with protective metals, it's no surprise that the limitation of cellular service is another reason providers still cling to their ever-reliable pagers. Radio waves, used in transmitting pages, are more capable of cutting through these concrete jungles than tower-based cellular devices. A pager is a small radio receiver with a personalized code or number, which senders will enter to alert your device. All pagers are picking up the messages, but your personal device ignores any messages without your personal code. Compare that to a cell phone. They must be in range of a tower on a network, which varies depending on carrier.Reliable, affordable, resilient, low maintenance, and portable. It’s beginning to make sense now why hospitals continue to invest in this convenient antiquity - isn’t it?
Simply put, no. In the battle of smartphones vs. pagers, only one offers collaboration.
How much value are you getting from a one-way message? A pager can’t be used to communicate lab results or request that a CT be performed with contrast. All you can do is request a call back. As medicine has advanced so has the medical communities’ understanding of clinical collaboration. It’s no longer a world where your physician wears all the hats. They now know that a care team is in place to treat patients. It’s a simple concept. You can flip on your television today. Watch a pitcher on a baseball mound sending hand signals across the field, back and forth with their coach, and know that every team requires collaborative communication.Clinical collaboration involves a multidisciplinary team. This includes physicians, nurses, social workers, techs, and administrators. They are working together, sharing information in a bi-directional manner to dispense quality care. With the advent of secure texting applications, the smartphone is transforming these conversations. No longer do teams have to talk in hallways, huddles, and “war rooms.” A group chat that can take place anywhere means clinicians can oversee and admission and a discharge at the same time. Care coordinators can message an entire hospitalist group at once. This much easier than chasing down individuals all over a sprawling facility. Nursing supervisors have a view of their unit’s availability, without pulling nurses during rounds. You can’t do any of that with a pager.
Providers need to collaborate, and secure texting offers that, whereas pagers never have. Collaboration is not only numeric. With secure texting, providers send protected health information (PHI) over the app, which offers the detail and depth for clinical decisions.But what about data breaches? You don’t want to sacrifice security for convenience and the good news is, you don’t have to compromise. Select a secure-texting vendor that exceeds the recommended security requirements. One way to do this is to make the target smaller, don’t choose a vendor who stores your data (along with the data of all its thousands of other customers). This makes them a hackers-dream, one big ripe storehouse of information to pilfer. Instead, partner with vendors that allow you to be the keeper of the keys. Look for dual key encryption and cloud pass-through technology. Learn more about these critical security features here.Two-way or multi-party communication is superior to a one-way page in clinical collaboration. But what about the other pro-pager facts like reliability?
Radio wave-based pagers are good at getting through to you, beeping away wherever you are. You, too, have gotten good at explaining to people that the only drugs you’re dealing are Metformin and Plavix (darn 90’s pager stigmas). So, it’s no surprise you may be hesitant to jump on the pager-replacement train. After all, you miss calls all the time, right? But you’re not the type to let fear hold you back in the dark ages, and you already know about a little thing called escalation. This is where, again, choosing the right secure texting vendor is of the utmost importance. Not all vendors offer escalation, but those that do provide you with an invaluable backup. If you’re in an area where Wi-Fi signals are weak, an automatic escalation call sends to your phone, notifying you of an unread message and who it’s from. Your messages will no longer get lost in the Bermuda Triangle even if your phone is in the pocket of your Bermuda shorts.
The smartphone advantage should be getting clearer, and what’s clearer than a photograph? In the final round of smartphones vs. pagers, the smartphone's capabilities win here. Pagers can’t take or transmit images, smartphones can. The industry-leading secure texting applications offer camera support for pictures and video. Wound staging, patient recognition, form completion, site confirmation, rash identification, the clinical applications are endless. To be fair, here are some words of caution.You need a platform to deliver the best security measures for your data as well as offers a HIPAA-compliant camera. Find a solution that allows you to take pictures without storing those images in the camera roll or cloud backup services. The last thing you want is to have a patient’s mastectomy incision to be on full display in your auto-backup screensaver slideshow. Opt for a vendor with a HIPAA camera. This will allow you to capture and share all forms of PHI including patient images.
Long gone are the days of VHS, Walkmans, and loud dial-up modems. Industries everywhere have embraced modern technology as a welcome relief. It’s time for healthcare to do the same. Secure texting, done right, improves clinical collaboration, expedites quality care, reduces waste, and provides a high level of transparency.If you're ready to make the switch, we invite you to learn more about QliqSOFT’s secure texting application, delivering HIPAA-compliant tools for better communication.
Jolean came to QliqSOFT with nearly 20 years of clinical and Healthcare IT experience. Whether providing direct patient care or developing multi-million dollar informatics programs and life-saving protocols, Jolean has been on the forefront of emerging technologies and understands first-hand the challenges and opportunities our customers face.
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