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Smartphone Ringtone Signals Pager's Demise

August 5, 2010
by Jennifer Prestigiacomo
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One key issue in healthcare IT is how the smartphone will continue becoming integrated into clinical care and when it will eventually take the pager’s place. According to a study by Manhattan Research, 64 percent of U.S. physicians own smartphones and analysts predict that by 2012 penetration will increase to 81 percent. A recent report on physician smartphone adoption from Spyglass Consulting Group showed 94 percent adoption among its nationwide sample of 100 physicians working in acute care and ambulatory environments.

In speaking with Spyglass managing director Greg Malkary about the report earlier this week, he mentioned a really interesting comment from a pediatric surgeon at a regional hospital:

“There’s less need at point of care to access reference based materials or patient clinical data than there was five years ago. I have many different form factors available to me at the hospital, my office, and my home. It’s faster, easier, and more convenient to access and view information on my desktop computer with a full size screen and keyboard than it is on a smartphone.”

The surgeon brings up a salient point, in that, with the prevalence of computers in hospitals, on carts and in patient rooms, the need for smartphones at point of care is not as necessary to access patient information as maybe it once was. But rather than access patient or reference information, it seems more hospitals are deploying smartphones to enhance clinician communication among colleagues to replace the often intrusive pagers and PA systems.

As HCI editor-in-chief Mark Hagland reported in the August cover story, nurses at the 805-bed Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital are sending secure, encrypted text messages via their iPhones utilizing the Voalté One product. These short, routine texts are being sent without having to interrupt patient care.

Another example of system-wide smartphone deployment is at Emory Health System in Atlanta. Emory, which has more than 20 health centers, has deployed more than 2,000 BlackBerrys and 500 iPhones (plus some Androids) using the AmCom messaging solution through the Emory University School of Medicine’s IT department. Instead of using pagers, doctors and nurses send secure messages regarding patient care via their smartphones.

It will be interesting to see how this trend develops and how it will affect the quality of care. So this fall on Grey’s Anatomy will we be seeing Meredith and Cristina checking iPhones instead of their pagers?
 

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Jennifer Presti...