There are many reasons pagers are becoming a thing of the past, quickly being replaced by smartphones and mobile devices. The efficiency offered by these new devices far surpasses that of pagers, and offers a new level of security and accountability that is crucial for HIPAA compliance.
Pagers have been an essential part of healthcare communications for a long time. They have had a huge impact on the way doctors, nurses, and administrators communicate with one another, and have fundamentally changed the way healthcare workers interact. Pagers allowed for physicians and staff to be notified of a critical patient or situation in a way that didn’t exist before. For the most part, pagers offered what seemed to be a cost-effective solution and allowed for easier communication. But in time, the true price of using pagers has become clear and now more advanced, valuable options have become available.
The Cost of Pagers
A study conducted by HIMSS Analytics highlighted the ‘soft costs’ of pagers in the industry indicating that healthcare providers are overpaying in order to maintain paging services. Despite advancements in technology and new services available, ‘legacy technology’ such as pagers can often be difficult to replace despite better alternatives available. Some of the ‘soft costs’ in maintaining pager systems that were reported in the survey included the lack of two way communication, the limitations of operating on a single network, the lack of context and information within a page, and the inconvenience of carrying and managing more than one device. In another report carried out by the Ponemon Institute, pagers were estimated to cost US hospitals 8.3 billion in 2013 alone.
Over time additional flaws of pagers have began to emerge as technology has advanced. The new technology offered by smartphones brings capabilities that can help eradicate many of the issues pagers presented, like the complete lack of audit trail which leads to issues with accountability and reliability, or the time wasted spent wondering if messages have been transmitted and received.
The Shift to Smartphones and Mobile Devices
One core reason why pagers have remained in use is their supposed reliability, particularly instances of low cell reception. However, according to analysts, reception problems are easy to solve and have been for years. There has been an extensive shift towards the use of mobile devices and smartphones in healthcare organizations, with 81% of doctors having accessed PHI or communicated with patients from their mobile phone. This is an alarming issue given that traditional SMS texting is not HIPAA compliant and the majority of messaging apps that currently exist on the market are not adequately secure or compliant. Even those that claim to be secure lack sufficient safeguards and features for ePHI transfer, with non-secure file sharing, non-encrypted messaging and a poorly developed search functionality.
What’s even more concerning is that approximately 92% of healthcare institutions are using non-compliant healthcare apps in an effort to push forward their BYOD policies and communication. Given the recent efforts by the OCR to enforce HIPAA legislation, organizations are opening themselves up to breaches resulting in fines if the correct measure aren't taken.
A Secure Texting Solution
However there is a better way to communicate in healthcare. A secure messaging solution like Lua offers an open, streamlined communication platform for any healthcare organization. A HIPAA compliant messaging app that can increase productivity with a multi-platform functionality, multi-person conversations, and accountability features that are simply not plausible with pagers. The Sent and Read Receipts feature alone solves one of the most troubling issues with pagers with audit trails. A service like Lua aims to help employers achieve increased productivity and accountability, eliminate communication inefficiencies and ensure organizations are never in violation of HIPAA. With the continual technological advancements, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Brent Iadarola "to be in the pager environment, is to be in the Dark Ages".