Healthcare News & Insights

Text messaging may be a better alternative to pagers for hospital staff

In many hospitals, pagers are the primary tool used for communication between clinicians. If this is the case in your hospital, the practice may be eating away at your profits, and you may want to look at switching to secure text messaging instead.

83404273Based on the results of a recent study from Imprivata, a company focused on improving efficiency in health care, and the Ponemon Institute, the use of pagers is a major contributing factor to communication inefficiencies that slow down hospital workflow.

Communication gaps explained

In the study, researchers started out by looking at the financial cost of inefficient communication in hospitals. Specifically, they examined three processes: patient admission, emergency response coordination and patient transfer.

Researchers asked healthcare providers throughout the country to weigh in on how long these processes typically took – and how much time they felt was wasted by communication issues when trying to complete these tasks.

Judging by their responses, communication problems amount for a huge chunk of wasted time. In fact, 65% of the average time it took to admit a patient into the hospital (51 minutes total) was wasted because of inefficient communications. The average time to coordinate a team to respond to a hospital emergency was 93 minutes, and 43% of that time ended up being wasted because of communication problems. And 63% of the average time it took to transfer a patient between facilities (56 minutes total) was wasted due to communication gaps.

Cost of wasted time

If this pattern is true for all the nation’s hospitals, when considering the average wages for these staffers who are wasting time because of miscommunications, the researchers calculated the average loss to each hospital at $1.75 million.

The total loss for all hospitals: $11 billion a year.

Participants in the study were asked what factors they felt contributed the most to these communication issues. The top three offenders were:

  • Pagers are not efficient (52%)
  • Text messaging is not allowed (39%), and
  • Wi-Fi is not available (37%).

So it’s clear that, to clinical staff at least, the use of pagers impedes hospital communication. And while you may think your hospital’s fine using the same old system, it may be harming your bottom line.

Why texting’s better

Given these findings, hospitals may wish to explore another communication alternative to pagers: a secure text messaging system via smartphones or other mobile devices like tablets.

Using this system, doctors and other staff can send typed messages, photos and even videos to each other. The variety they have helps paint a clearer picture of crucial medical situations, which can cut down on misunderstandings and streamline workflow processes.

It may be worthwhile to ask your IT department or CIO about ditching the pagers and making the upgrades you’d need to support an internal secure text messaging system. You may find that the startup costs are worth the cost savings down the line.

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