Why do doctors still use pagers?
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Why do doctors still use pagers?

In most industries, the pager represents an ancient relic of the pre-smartphone era, yet for doctors, pagers still play an important part of every day life.

According to experts, there’s some valid reasoning behind ongoing pager use in the medical sector. Pagers are low-maintenance, have long battery life, good coverage where there might be mobile service and operate on a system that will work even during a disaster or power outage.

One-way legacy systems

But pagers also have a lot of disadvantages too. In the US alone, it is estimated that about 90 percent of hospitals still use pagers for communications and overpay by 45 percent to maintain legacy pager services. And the 2016 HIMMS Analytics report revealed a lack of two-way communication was the most commonly cited disadvantage of using pagers among the executives interviewed as part of the study.

One-way communication systems offer no ability to answer back with the same immediacy and efficiency as a mobile device. And the time wasted in communicating, adds up as a burden on the healthcare system, especially when the answer back could be a simple yes or no response.

Pagers were also seen in the report as as causing communication gaps by not allowing users to update contact directories and on-call schedules, which are critical to effectively reaching physicians. Survey respondents also noted the inconvenience of carrying and managing more than one device.

Meanwhile the limits of paging systems operating only on a single network was perceived as a significant disadvantage, unlike smartphones which communicate across multiple networks such as both cellular and WIFI.

A new era of communication

The challenge in the new digital era of communication and clinical management is ensuring that across the digital health ecosystem, solution providers understand these unique challenges faced by medical institutions and can develop, adapt and implement a compliant and sensible technology strategy that can support hospital administrators and clinical staff.

In Australia, Monash Medical Centre and Monash Children’s Hospital rolled out a new ‘Smartpage’ communication solution in partnership with Alcidion in March, which enables medical staff to communicate securely out of hours via smartphones.

The new solution offers Monash Health, which services approximately 1.4m people in the Southern Metropolitan region, with out of hours clinical task management that delivers two-way instant communications between clinical staff to increase productivity and offer instant access to information when they need it to improve patient care.

Meanwhile MedicalDirector’s cloud-based practice management solution, Helix, allows doctors to manage aspects of patient bookings, appointments and schedules, anytime and on any device in real-time.

Moving forward, the priority for the health industry is to modernise and streamline its practices to deliver more sophisticated, accurate and real-time patient care, while reducing the amount of wasted resources within the public healthcare system.

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