Guest Post: Pagers – It Takes More than Just an App 4/18/12

Why is the concept of pager replacement such a hot topic?

It’s really quite simple. The expectations of our users have changed significantly over the past five years. Physicians, nurses, and other caregivers have access to various means of personal communication and the expectation is to AT LEAST have similar functionality in their day-to-day jobs.

The good news? This problem will be fixed. The bad news? No pager replacement vendor seems to really understand the concept of how consumer communication needs to be tied into clinical workflow to improve communication.

“Pager replacement,” as it’s currently described, makes me sick to my stomach. It is the result of unimaginative vendors forcing a “Band-Aid” approach to a problem they understand at a superficial level.

Removing a physical pager and replacing it with a virtual pager on a smart phone simply removes a device. It does not actually improve workflow. It just removes a slight cost. Or, more likely, transfers a cost to another vendor … because we all know that software isn’t free.

Asking a pager company to fix a communication problem is like asking a typewriter company to develop the first personal computer. What was true then, is still true today. Technology should enable entirely new workflows that benefit the end user — in the case of clinical communication — the care provider. Taking an obsolete workflow centered on paging and replicating it on smart phones misses the point entirely.

When looking at a pager replacement strategy, the first thing a hospital must do is understand that not all pages are created equal. It is important to begin segmenting pagers into different categories of use. For example:

  • In-house pagers
  • Wide area pagers
  • Shared pagers (code team, rapid response team, transporters)
  • Personal pagers

Once the segmentation of pagers is completed, a holistic strategy of pager replacement can begin. A hospital must look beyond the physical pager and dive into the workflow associated with a pager.

Pager replacement is not a big bang approach. With thousands of devices and dozens of workflow scenarios, it is important to look for low-hanging fruit and early wins that require small amounts of work, yet can have a significant impact on communication and patient care.

In some scenarios, a simple pager replacement application might make sense for a short-term approach. However, such “pager replacement app” solutions should be treated just as that — a short-term solution to bridge over to the desired end state.

 4-18-2012 7-01-06 AM

Trey Lauderdale is chief innovation officer of Voalté of Sarasota, FL.

  • Robert D. Lafsky M.D.

    A reasonable argument as far as it goes, but I don’t come away at the end with much of an idea where it’s going. Examples?

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