Monday, June 21, 2010

Hospitals Replacing Pagers With A Smart Phone …. Good Or Bad Idea?

Use of smart phones in the healthcare environment …. in place of the traditional pager … is simply smart. The pun is intended too. The old pager approach is just too limiting given today’s robust communication options. Medical professionals need more than a “beep” and a number to call. Smart phones offer so much more capability and flexibility which in the long run enhances communication and ultimately patient care quality.

SigmaPage offers a solution that facilitates electronic healthcare communications, which includes On-Call Scheduling as well as On-Call Paging for hospitals as well as private practices. Here are some of the key learnings for potential users:

Pros …..

1. The SigmaPage device ….. Most physicians carry smart phones (iPhones, Blackberry, etc.) anyway. They are happy to consolidate all their communications into one device. Besides, smart phones do so much more than pagers can. They support applications that facilitate easy sharing of information and schedules. Text messages and emails facilitate fast communications.

2. Privacy ….. One concern physicians have is privacy. They do not like to share their smart phone numbers since they fear it will get abused and they will receive calls at the wrong time (at night), esp. when they are not on call. The SigmaPage product takes care of this privacy concern. At no point in time do they display physician contact info (phone number, email address, etc.) to the end user. Lack of privacy can be a negative of smart phones, which happens to be a pro because of the uniqueness of this product.

3. Technology ….. SigmaPage also has a technology called Clik2Talk, where nurses and hospital based personnel can talk to physicians directly with the click of a button without knowing their phone numbers. These calls can be received on smart phones or any landline at times physicians choose to be called instead of paged. Obviously, pagers do not facilitate such technology.

Cons …..

1. Adoption ….. As with any new technology or habit, you’ll find that some physicians are so used to their pagers, they do not want to give them up. To facilitate this, SigmaPage product works with existing pagers and paging system seamlessly.

2. Separation ….. Physicians like to keep their personal life separate from their professional lives. When a pager goes off, it’s all about work, so it facilitates that separation.

3. Urgency ….. Pagers signal urgency of response. This can be replicated on smart phones by special/distinct ringtones that also signify the same urgency.

Financial Impact …..

Hospitals can save a ton of money by converting to smart phones. These savings come from getting rid of pagers as well as from more streamlined workflow and integration of communications.

Resistance …..

I believe the benefits of EMR/EHR systems has opened eyes to benefits of leveraging technology in the healthcare environment, so resistance has decreased over the years.

Advice …..

Since we are not a hospital, any advice may not be pertinent. However, paging is a small part of the overall communications in the hospital or private practice. Current paging systems do not integrate scheduling seamlessly and do not facilitate other forms of communication. If you look at communication as a whole, there are many benefits to be availed of when using smart phones based technology. Those benefits cannot be delivered by smart phones alone. They have to be part of an integrated communications solution.

For more information on this unique product go to: SigmaPage

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