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Opposites Attract: Why Clinical Communication Systems Should Marry Smartphone and Pager Features

A number of thought-provoking articles lately have observed the (relatively) sluggish adoption rates that secure messaging solutions face in healthcare, while also highlighting a fairly obvious culprit behind them: the perennial pager.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘why is a startup that aims to displace pager use amongst healthcare providers touting the benefits of pager use?’ The reason pager use persists in healthcare isn’t by fluke; pagers, for all their flaws, actually contribute meaningfully to healthcare communications workflow in a number of ways. For modern mobile solutions to truly supplant pagers, they must incorporate, or at the very least pay homage to, the features that made the pager great, according to a new viewpoint published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

The Pros of Pagers

In the viewpoint, three authors from the University of California San Francisco state that “pagers have certain characteristics that must be preserved in the transition to smartphone-based paging applications, including, at minimum, ensuring that a clinician can receive an attention-diverting, easily read text message.” To truly provide an effective clinical messaging solution, “an SPA must also fulfill more complex tasks that depend on integration with the paging network: showing the clinician a directory of colleagues, allowing messages to be forwarded or copied to another practitioner, and ensuring that battery life, out of network issues, and silent mode settings do not lead to missed communications.”

Realizing the true potential of smartphones in clinical settings, however, means looking beyond simple messaging capabilities and leverage the power of ubiquitous wifi and internet connectivity to integrate with robust systems that drive clinical efficiency. EHR systems, scheduling software, and other cloud-connected tools are more than capable of sharing information bidirectionally with a mobile messaging application. Structured messaging and message templates can be used to capture crucial information that might otherwise be missed, and have it transmitted in real time back to the EHR to complement the less dynamic clinical information that populates patient records.

Going Above and Beyond

The viewpoint’s authors caution that simply migrating pager capabilities to a smartphone app would be similar to “turning a paper health record into an EHR without taking advantage of discrete data capture, decision support, remote access, improved reporting, and all of the other features that distinguish its functionality from that of paper records.” The ultimate goal of healthcare messaging providers shouldn’t be to provide a modernized pager; it should be to provide a solution that incorporates the best elements of the pager, enhances them with the multitude of modern features smartphones provide, and packages it all within an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that will truly enable care providers to communicate and deliver care more effectively and efficiently.

At Telmediq, thanks to our years of experience developing for healthcare, our open communication with our customers, and our knowledge of pager culture, we feel we’re well on our way.

blog, Clinical Workflow, EMR, healthcare communications, Mobile, mobile messaging, Pager, pager replacement, Technology